Posts Tagged Philip Morris

Thank you for not displaying. Objections to tobacco display ban go up in smoke.

I have previously referred to the display ban case which Philip Morris took to the EFTA Court. I have only just recently stumbled across the eventual holding of the court which had referred the case to Luxembourg. (The Norwegian court held a year after EFTA’s judgment). Not GAVClaw style to report close to 2 years after date of issue: blame the inadequate (read lack of) system by which EFTA and indeed EU Member States report back on their eventual findings in preliminary review.

The District Court had been instructed by the EFTA Court to review whether the display ban actually affects the sale of domestic products and sale of goods from other EEA States equally. If there is de facto equal treatment, the law surfs on Keck & Mithouard’s exception for ‘selling arrangements’: no infringement of the core prohibition on quantitative restrictions to trade in the first place. (See Alberto Alemanno’s analysis of the EFTA ruling for background).

The national court suggested that the EFTA Court had not been entirely clear on how that test had to be constructed: not at any rate, it held, as a market hindrance test: i.e. that new products’ chances of entering the Norwegian tobacco market should be decisive for the question of whether a restriction exists.  It referred inter alia (at p.35 of the copy referred to above) to the fact that the Norwegian Government in its submission to the EFTA Court had suggested that even though such hindrance for new products at the time did not actually exist, it could be expected indeed hoped that this would be the case. The District Court held that in the light of this acknowledgement by the Government, had the EFTA Court found this problematic, it would and should have said so explicitly. (This in some ways might be seen as a risk for the EFTA Court’s tradition, in line with the ECJ’s approach, to practice judicial economy).

The District Court in the end decided to continue the case on the basis of whether national products have a more favourable position due to local habits and customs linked to tobacco use (at p.35): the burden of proof whether the ban actually and not just potentially affects the marketing of imported tobacco products differently than domestic tobacco products lies with PMI, the Court held. That, it said, was not established with clarity: the de facto discriminatory effect of the display ban was found to be too uncertain to be considered a trade barrier.

The Court then somewhat inconsistently (do Norwegian courts practice wide obiter?) did review suitability and proportionality (not needed if Keck & Mithouard applied). Here, without naming the precautionary principle, the Court applies an important consequence often associated with it: the reversal of burden of proof. The Court essentially wanted PMI to show clear evidence for the display ban not being suitable for restricting the consumption of tobacco in Norway, at any rate in the long term (p.48). The Court essentially relies on previous case-law on tobacco advertising and equates suitability of the display ban with relevant studies and case-law on advertising restrictions. This was bound to (although the court took some length to establish it) lead to a finding of suitability.

Finally, as for proportionality proper, the court (with cross-reference i.a. on the effect of these bans elsewhere) did not find less trade restrictive alternatives (within the context of access to information or branding at point of sale).

This judgment just has to be staple fodder for risk classes and the interaction between risk analysis and trade law.

Geert.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Metamorphosis: Can an investment loose such qualification because of its negative externalities? The Philip Morris v Uruguay arbitration

Update 9 July 2016: the panel sided with Uruguay on the merits, in a move which must boost those rejecting criticism that international trade law, including BITs, MITs and TTIP, deny States’ regulatory autonomy.

A very interesting debate in the PMI v Uruguay arbitration on plain packaging. The decision on jurisdiction (which was taken in July this year) rejected the notion that an ‘investment’ under a BIT looses such qualification as a result of, in effect, its negative externalities. Uruguay had argued that PMI’s interests in Uruguay do not constitute a protected investment since not only do they fail to make any contribution to the Country’s development, but they actively prevent and interfere with such development, due to the health impact of tobacco consumption.

The Panel, having to establish its subject-matter jurisdiction, gave the notion ‘investment’ a broad meaning, in the absence of express language to the contrary in the BIT concerned. With reference to ICSID precedent, the tribunal declined to make ex-post economic /financial  evaluations determine its jurisdiction – all the more so since such business, economic, financial… ex post evaluation is subject to tit for tat data and figures.

The case will therefore continue on the merits.  Interesting material.

Geert.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Fuss rather than fizz. New York court’s reversal of ‘soda bucket ban’ only the first shot.

The New York State Supreme Court, in what I understand to be a decision of the interlocutory type and subject to appeal, has held as unconstitutional (vis-a-vis the NY Constitution, that is) the NY City Board of Health’s decision to limit the size of sugary soft drinks or ‘sodas’ sold in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas at 16 ounces a cup. That’s 473 millilitres, slightly less than half a litre (500 millilitres or 50 cl) or roughly 100 ml less than what in the UK would be a pint (568 ml).  473 millilitres therefore would be the new maximum size – I have no experience with the current standard size however I understand that by default it must be much bigger than what is now being proposed. I remember some years back reading about a lawsuit in the US against Chrysler, whose new Voyager people carrier had cup holders which could not hold a one litre soda cup (one assumes this was a suit of the rather desperate type however one never knows).

Justice Milton Tingling essentially held that the Board’s decision trespasses on the powers of the legislative body, the City Council. Separation of powers, therefore, or Agency /delegation of powers, has decided this first shot in the soda war. Justice Tingling mentioned specifically that the judgment is not about the obesity epidemic, if any, and /or the contribution of soda drinks to same (he does remark that infringement of the separation of powers ‘(…) has the potential to be more troubling than sugar sweetened beverages’).

How far a State should go in regulating the unhealthy habits of its citisens is very much of the essence in this case – as is the importance for New York to somehow establish the link between practices targeted, and unwanted consequences on people’s health, the national health service, and the public purse. In the EU, this would create interesting musing under the precautionary principle (see also EFTA’s widely criticised Philip Morris judgment, which I have previously referred to). Appeal has already been announced.

Geert.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

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.

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Exam questions, anyone? Plain packaging regulations and domestic regulatory autonomy

Postscript January 2016 Reportedly the Permanent Court of Arbitration under UNCITRAL rules, has declined jurisdiction. The award is to be made public here once it has been cleared of confidential data.

Postscript June 2015: I have many other posts on the issue however I thought I”d here that in June 2015, Ukraine suspended its complaint against Australia. Simon Lester collates why. And end of May 2015, Norway Norway TBT plain packaing notification its plain packaging plans to the WTO TBT Committee, with extensive pre-emption of legal arguments against it.

Postscript 22 10 2013:  on the BIT front, see the interesting defence by the European Commission of BITs in October 2013 here. Reference is made ia to the ongoing Philip Morris and Vatenfall (Nuclear energy) issues.

Faculty everywhere have been handed a treasure trove of exam questions, courtesy of ‘plain packaging’ (students please look away now).  A variety of States are in the process of introducing ‘plain packaging’ requirements on tobacco products. Although they of course vary in detail, they generally require tobacco manufacturers to strip packaging of all tailored corporate content, resorting instead to prescribed generic packaging. The ‘plain’ packaging required is generally limited to brand name in standardised fashion (font size and lettering, colour…), joined by a number of health warnings (including, sometimes, images), excise duties requirements and ingredients listings.

Plain packaging ticks all the boxes of a classic ‘domestic regulatory autonomy’ dispute. It pitches the freedom of a sovereign State to pursue ‘regulatory’ interests (environment, public health, consumer protection, stability of the economy etc.) against the free trade commitments which the same State has voluntarily committed to. These trade commitments take the form of multilateral (such as the WTO, the EU’s Internal Market, or NAFTA) or bilateral (such as bilateral free trade agreements and customs unions) agreements. They most often do not, but sometimes do include procedural rights for private parties (as opposed to simply the States which have concluded the agreement) to launch legal proceedings should free trade (arguably) have been infringed. Such standing for private parties is the case in many BITs, i.e. Bilateral Investment Treaties, as well as for instance (subject to a number of whistles and bells), NAFTA.

Free trade agreements are not generally oblivious to the continuing desire of participating States to regulate the interests referred to above. Consequently they include room for ‘domestic regulatory autonomy’ to continue after the conclusion of the agreement, subject of course to checks and balances.

This fragile balance between free trade and regulatory autonomy is exactly what the current debate on plain packaging is all about. The issue is being fought on many fronts: At the World Trade Organisation, Ukraine have filed a complaint in March 2012 against Australia’s plain packaging laws on the basis of the TRIPS (intellectual property) and TBT (technical barriers to trade; product regulations) Agreements. Ukraine’s complaint is supported by a number of WTO Members with tobacco manufacturing interests.

Australia’s position is eagerly anticipated by other jurisdictions thinking of doing something similar.See e.g. here and here.

At a constitutional level, issues include free (commercial) speech (see here for the related issue of graphic warnings), expropriation (of the trademark), non-discrimination (why no plain packaging on alcohol, for instance).

At a level of BITs, the issue has rejuvinated the ‘regulatory takings’ debate (do new regulatory requriements of host States amount to a ‘regulatory taking’ (as compared to a straightforward expropriation) that may be incompatible with investment protection requirements. The Uruguay-Switserland (see here and enter search term ‘ICSID Case No. ARB/10/7’) and Australia-Hong Kong BITs are among those affected. One imagines that the necessity of the measure will be hotly contested, as the actual health impact of the measure is not entirely certain. See the (controversial) ruling of the European Free Trade Association’s Court on the related issue of display bans here and the excellent analysis of prof Alemanno.

One will have gathered: all of this is excellent material for those of us teaching Trade and regulatory law. Geert.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: