Apr 05 2012
In a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to prevent youth from smoking, the World Trade Organization appeals panel Wednesday upheld the earlier decision that the prohibition in the United States discriminates against Indonesian clove cigarettes.
Decision issued on Wednesday, agreed with the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate the tobacco industry. The ruling found that the law violates global trade rules by banning the manufacture and sale of cigarettes with cloves and many other flavors, but not menthol.
The appeals panel said the development and application of the law “clearly show that the negative impact on the competitive opportunities for clove cigarettes reflects the discrimination against groups such as goods imported from Indonesia.”
Nkenge Harmon, a spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Office, said the administration is “very disappointed” in the decision, but remain committed to protecting public health. U.S. “will continue to actively engage in public health measures in a way that is consistent with the obligations of the United States trade,” she said.
Indonesia, the world’s leading producer of clove cigarettes, challenged the law in 2010 after losing access to the market value of $ 15 million per year. Jakarta claimed the law unfairly favors menthol cigarettes are the American authorities. Previously, the WTO decision agreed with Indonesia on discrimination charge, recognizing that the law on preventing youth from smoking was legal.
Some consumer groups have expressed concern that the WTO ruling against the law could undermine U.S. policy in the field of health.
“This case underlines why the country should insist on the fact that WTO rules be changed and that no new agreements to use the same model of corporate deregulation of the back door,” said Lori Wallace, director of Global Trade Public Citizen, the advocacy group. She urged the administration to withdraw from the decision.
Nevertheless, the committee of citizens to defend the Truth, a group formed to study the dangers of smoking among young people, argues that a ban on menthol cigarettes would be the solution of trade disputes and improving people’s health. Several group leaders, including Joseph Califano, the Minister of Health under the Carter administration, and Louis Sullivan, health minister in the first Bush administration, wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in December menthol cigarette ban “will not only improve the health of people in the United States this will lead the United States in accordance with their obligations under international treaties and to avoid the introduction of retaliatory tariffs in Indonesia. ”
After the WTO Dispute Settlement Body decides to appeal within the next 30 days, then the U.S. will have to come up with a plan to meet or face the threat of retaliation on the part of Indonesia. Meanwhile, the ban remains in force.