WTO Appellate Body in Clove Cigarettes – Faites vos Jeux

Postscript 8 January 2016: the Advocate General of the WTO referred to the WTO case, in a challenge to the EU’s ban on menthol cigarettes, suggesting the EU wouldbe in WTO trouble had it not banned their sale.

The WTO Appellate Body’s Report in ‘Clove cigarettes’  was issued on 4 April. It is a dream ‘Trade and public health’ case and therefore generally a superb ‘trade and regulatory autonomy’ case. Under appeal were a number of the findings of the Panel in first instance. The WTO summarises the dispute as follows:

‘(the case) concerns Section 907(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FFDCA”), which was added to the FFDCA by Section 101(b) of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.  This measure bans the production and sale of clove cigarettes, as well as most other flavoured cigarettes, in the United States.  However, the measure excludes menthol-flavoured cigarettes from the ban.  Indonesia is the world’s main producer of clove cigarettes, and the vast majority of clove cigarettes consumed in the United States prior to the ban were imported from Indonesia.’

Discrimination, necessity, the link between the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT – new under the WTO) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (applied since 1947 and with a richer case-law history), the possibility of employing regulatory objectives to decide upon ‘likeness’ between products: these and other issues are all dealt with by both Panel and AB. Per usual and not surprisingly (the same holds for many courts, nationally and internationally), the jury is out on many of the topics addressed. This leaves uncertainty of a similar ilk as after the Brasil Tyres case, the consequences of which I have analysed for JEL here.

Geert.

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