Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cuba holds a smoking gun to Australia

Cuba enjoys a very high prestige among progressive people the world over because of its extensive public health system.  This includes its contributions to developing countries in training and supporting medical personnel in those countries.

Which makes it all the more disappointing that Cuba has joined Honduras and the Dominican Republic as complainants against Australia in a case taken to the World Trade Organisation by the Ukraine.

Ukraine’s complaint concerns “certain Australian laws and regulations that impose trademark restrictions and other plain packaging requirements on tobacco products and packaging”.

As an article in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review notes, “The complainant countries are being supported by multinational tobacco companies”.  Or perhaps that should be “The multinational tobacco companies are being supported by the complainant countries”.

Australia is also being prosecuted by US tobacco giant Philip Morris in a case before the courts in Hong Kong under an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause.  This is a clause that allows a company to sue for damages in any country that enacts legislation that impacts negatively on the company’s investments.

ISDS clauses clearly undermine the sovereignty of countries which agree to them, giving corporations greater rights than independent nations.

Worried by the Hong Kong precedent, the Labor government of Australia stated in 2011 that it would not allow ISDS clauses in any new trade agreements.

This is a significant and correct stance and comes as the US is attempting to enmesh Australia and various other states in our region, as well as several in Latin America, into a Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the terms of which are top secret. 

What is known, and this only because of leaked documents, is that the US is insisting on the inclusion of an ISDS clause in the TPPA.

Australian citizens only have until October to insist that the TPPA be abandoned and that the Australian government maintain its commitment to opposing any further ISDS clauses.

In the meantime, please contact the Cuban Embassy in Australia, respectfully requesting that Cuba respect Australian sovereignty and support our attempts to improve public health through plain packaging requirements on tobacco products sold in this country.
Cuban Embassy:

For further reading;

The Ukrainian case against Australia at the WTO:

Melbourne’s Occupy TPPA website: