World Trade Organization

Plain packaging pointless shows Australian experience

Sam Lotu Iiga is a tool, one who caved to his advisors and their wooly and wonky thinking over plain packaging.

Did he not stop to think of several obvious things. Firstly that cigarettes are NOT on display in shops. They are hidden behind cabinets and cupboards, so packaging is kind of moot anyway. Secondly, we have had plain packaging for years…in supermarkets. They are called store brands and the prices are lower because of lower packaging costs. They are exactly the same products and name brands, just in store brand packaging. So if it worked then surely supermarkets, who are the most rapacious bastards known to man would have ditched it long ago due to lack of sales.

The third reason is that there is no evidence at all that it works. Take Australia for instance…

A bill which will mean cigarettes can only be sold in bland brown or green packaging passed its final reading in Parliament this week.

The bill means mandatory health warnings will cover at least three quarters of the packet and tobacco company logos will be removed.

It’s taken three years for the legislation to pass after tobacco companies tried to sue the Australian government.

That legal battle failed last year, and even though the law was still facing challenges, such as by the World Trade Organisation, with other countries also introducing plain packing, legal action was less likely.

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National quite happy to damage companies and devalue their brands

Perhaps the National party need to reacquaint themselves with their founding principles, which say:

To promote good citizenship and self-reliance; to combat communism and socialism; to maintain freedom of contract; to encourage private enterprise; to safeguard individual rights and the privilege of ownership; to oppose interference by the State in business, and State control of industry”.

Certainly, John Key and Sam Lotu-Iiga have scant memory of those principles despite being the leader and a minister in a National-led government.

The bill that will force cigarettes to be sold in plain packets is back in parliament and on track to become law.

It passed its second reading on Thursday after being on hold since 2014.

The government last month confirmed it was going to put it through, and unveiled the proposed new brown-green packaging which is similar to that used in Australia.

Prime Minister John Key said at the time plain packages could be on the shelves early next year.

The government first mooted plain packaging back in 2012, the year Australia introduced it, and the bill passed its first reading in February 2014.

It went to a select committee, which supported it, but the government didn’t want to take it any further at that time because it was worried about the possibility of costly legal challenges from big multi-national tobacco companies.

The Australian government was being sued at the time, but in December last year legal action by Philip Morris failed.

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Despite no evidence to support it, government planning on plain packaging

There is zero evidence of the effectiveness of plain packaging, indeed in Australia which introduced plain packaging for tobacco consumption went up.

That doesn’t seem to be stopping idiot National ministers from rolling ahead with plain packaging.

The Government is to press ahead with plain-packaging for tobacco – with more detail on how such a regime might work to be revealed tomorrow.

Prime Minister John Key this afternoon said the Maori Party-devised plain-packaging regime had not been signed off by Cabinet, but the advice he was receiving was that “we should be able to proceed with that, without the legal risks that had slowed us up”.

“I’m not sure how far away it is, but it’s getting much closer and we are keen to progress it.”

New Zealand had been keeping an eye on the outcome of legal challenges against Australia’s plain-packaging, one from tobacco firm Philip Morris and another from tobacco-producing countries via the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will attend a smokefree event in Wellington tomorrow.

The Herald understands he will unveil detail on draft regulations for a future plain-packaging regime, such as what cigarette packages would look like.

Australia won the case against Philip Morris in December.

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Fran O’Sullivan kicks Little in the slats over the TPPA

Fran O’Sullivan delivers a good kicking to Andrew Little and to Labour for their stance over the TPPA.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is too important to New Zealand’s economic future for Andrew Little to turn it into a partisan political football.

Little has attempted to somersault on the proverbial pin by giving former Labour leader and trade minister Phil Goff a dispensation to take his own position on the agreement – ostensibly because of “his involvement in negotiating its predecessor the P4 agreement” . Yet at the same time, stamping on former leader David Shearer for vocalising support for TPP because he wants his MPs to fall into line with the nebulous notion of caucus “collective responsibility”.

It is difficult to understand why Little prefers the judgment of NGO activists over that of a former NZ Trade Minister who not only negotiated the ground-breaking bilateral China free trade deal but also finalised the Asean deal with New Zealand and Australia.

Frankly there is nothing responsible in Little’s positioning.

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More good news, WTO moves to abolish agri-subsidies

New Zealand agricultural exporters have received a much needed boost today with the announcement that the WTO has agreed to end export subsidies for agricultural exports.

The elimination of export subsidies for agricultural exports is a watershed for world trade that will help boost dairy prices, Fonterra says.

A World Trade Organisation ministerial conference held in Kenya and attended by New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay has agreed on the WTO Nairobi package, which will eliminate the ability of WTO members to subsidise their agricultural exports.

That is an outcome successive New Zealand governments have sought for decades, with trade envoys identifying agricultural subsidies, along with tariffs, as one of the biggest obstacles to free trade.

Fonterra chairman John Wilson said the historic breakthrough would be good news for dairy farmers.

“For years the use – or even the threat – of export subsidies have resulted in world dairy prices below their true level, reducing returns to dairy farmers,” Wilson said.

“Export subsidies have long been acknowledged as the most damaging form of subsidy and their removal from agricultural trade is a watershed for global trade,” he said. “The Nairobi outcome takes global trade rules one essential step further towards a level playing field for dairy trade.”

McClay said it had been illegal to subsidise the exports of industrial goods for more than half a century, and it was a major achievement to have that extended to agriculture.   Read more »

Plain Packaging legal hiccup being claimed for something it isn’t

The anti-tobacco lobbyists, the ones who seek to ban, block, tax and attack tobacco at every instance, are claiming victory in a recent FTA dispute in Hong Kong.

The federal government has won its case against tobacco giant Philip Morris Asia challenging Australia’s tobacco plain-packaging laws.

It means the former Gillard government’s plain-packaging laws, introduced in 2011, will remain in place.

The tribunal in the arbitration, based in Singapore, has issued a unanimous decision agreeing with Australia’s position that it has no jurisdiction to hear Philip Morris’s claim.

Philip Morris has slammed the decision, saying it does not validate plain packaging in Australia or anywhere else.     Read more »

What precisely is Labour’s actual position in free trade these days?

Labour can’t seem to make up their mind on free trade these days.

They vehemently opposed the TPPA, then after the deal was done said it wasn’t good enough, but that they would probably support it, while Andrew Little said if he was in government he would ignore the bits he didn’t like.

Phil Goff has come out yesterday with clear support.

Senior Labour MP Phil Goff says it is unlikely the party would have to breach parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA) free trade deal if it came to power, with “more than one way to skin the cat” regarding its concerns.

Goff, a former Labour leader and the trade minister who signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008, told TV3’s Paul Henry he had encouraged his party colleagues to consider the costs of opting out of the deal, which was “not the monster” that opponents were afraid of.   Read more »

Nicky Hager reveals that our spies spy…wow!

Nicky Hager’s drip feed of stolen documents via his pals in the NZ Herald continues today.

And todays revelations are that apparently our spies spy.

Our spies monitored email and internet traffic about international diplomats vying for the job of director-general of the World Trade Organisation – a job for which National Government Trade Minister Tim Groser was competing.

The spying operation was active in 2013 and called the “WTO Project” by New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), according to a top secret document obtained by the Herald and United States news site The Intercept.

The operation involved covert surveillance of candidates from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Jordan, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico and South Korea.

The GCSB tasking document which structured the search of internet traffic was designed to look for references to Mr Groser, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) role and his competitors, initially in any online communication but then narrowed to emails.

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Told you plain packaging will extend beyond cigarettes, now it will be a trade weapon

I’ve been talking about it for ages, and commenters and other including politicians scoffed…Don’t be silly Cam, plain packaging legislation is for tobacco only.

Except it gives the antis a toehold and now we are seeing the results of that. On top of that tobacco producing countries can use it to conduct a trade war against our exporters.

New Zealand’s wine and dairy producers will be forced to export their products without branding in retaliation for Government’s introduction of plain packaging of cigarettes, tobacco firms are warning MPs.

A senior Indonesian official has been reported saying New Zealand exporters will pay a price for draconian law changes which will require tobacco producers to sell their products in plain packs with standardised fonts and colours.

Tobacco firms and lobbyists repeated the warning to a Parliamentary committee yesterday.

Emergency Committee for American Trade president Cal Cohen told MPs that plain packaging was likely to lead to restrictions of trademarks for other goods such as wine and dairy.

Tobacco giant Phillip Morris pointed to a letter by Indonesia’s former Minister of Trade Gita Wirjawan to New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, in which he said plain packaging breached WTO rules and would have an impact on New Zealand exports.

Wine and dairy…ouchy…I wonder what Fonterra and all the exporters of dairy products think about that…especially those exporting branded baby formula to China.

What about sugar containing products…will they be the next victims in the war of business?

The former minister, now the Indonesian Director General for International Trade Co-operation, made a similar warning in a local news report: “If the cigarettes we export there are not allowed to have brands, then the wine they sell here shouldn’t also.”

New Zealand’s exports to Indonesia were worth nearly $900 million, half of which came from dairy. Food and beverages made up 70 per cent of total exports.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said New Zealand was “exercising its normal rights” through the plain packaging legislation.

He told the Herald: “I’ve met numerous Indonesian officials since we initiated that action and no concern has been expressed to me personally.

“So I would be very surprised if I hear talk in the future of that.”

Be surprised Groser…it will happen. The health busybodies will move from tobacco to sugar, to alcohol to dairy…they will use the same tactics, the same denigration and on top of that use state funding and taxpayer money to do it all.

If tobacco producing countries retaliate they will use the very same arguments Groser is advancing…that [insert country] was “exercising its normal rights” through the plain packaging legislation against alcohol…which from a muslim country like Indonesia is perfectly defensible on religious grounds without any pesky scientific evidence, which is severely lacking in tobacco legislation.

Corporate New Zealand better gear up for a war with the state funded health busybodies, it is coming whether they like it or not and their silence against plain packaging simply emboldens them toa ttack harder.

Busting myths: TPP

Patrick Smellie provides a useful list to help with busting the myths of the left wing losers who oppose everything and anything to do with free trade.

So, that’s No 1 in a list of the things that opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement don’t want you to understand. The secrecy surrounding TPP negotiations is typical of any such exercise.

No 2: The bogey of corporations being able to sue governments is not only overblown, but corporations can do that now, without a TPP. Look across the Tasman, where Big Tobacco is suing the government over its plan to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes.

No 3: Corporations might try to sue but they’ll be whistling if the government is acting in the public interest. Raising new taxes, protecting the environment, or regulating for public-health reasons won’t be excuses to mount court action.

No 4: United States corporate interests are obviously among those seeking influence on the TPP agenda, but that doesn’t mean the US Senate and Congress are on board. That’s why US President Barack Obama is having such trouble getting “fast-track” authority to negotiate TPP.

No 5: US politicians know less about what’s in the TPP negotiating documents than US corporate lobbies. So it must be a plot, right? Well, actually, no. Politicians in the US, and in New Zealand for that matter, can agree to maintain confidentiality and be briefed on whatever they like with respect to TPP. Labour’s trade and foreign affairs spokesmen, Phil Goff and David Shearer, avail themselves of this benefit. They support TPP, along with Shane Jones and some other Labour heavy-hitters, even if leader David Cunliffe is a leaf in the wind as he tries to balance what he knows is right and what his backers on the Left of the Labour Party expect.  Read more »