Monday, June 22, 2015

Indonesia's pro and anti tobacco industry policies

Image result for indonesia cigarette industry
Indonesia's Ministry of Trade (MoT) has announced its intention to join the challenge against Australia at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Australia's laws on plain packaging for cigarettes. Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Cuba have made challenges and 36 WTO Members have made third party interest interventions. MoT Director General of International Trade Cooperation, Bachrul Chairi asserted that mandatory plain packaging harms WTO members and would obstruct cigarette exports from Indonesia, thus affecting tobacco farmers as well as the national cigarette industry. Indonesia is a major tobacco grower and cigarette producer nation especially of clove cigarettes. Chairi framed the dispute in IP terms, stating that it could have wider negative effects on IP rights especially in other product sectors.

Indonesia's policy is conflicted.  The MoT seeks to protect the tobacco industry and IPRs. Meanwhile the Ministry of Health (MoH) enacted 2012 regulations to ban use of a wide range of words on packs from LIGHTS to PREMIUM and seems to have included a wide unspecified class of promotional or misleading terms. There are also rumours of a plain packaging bill being prepared.  This ministerial conflict is perhaps unusual, but illustrates the competing interests at work.  

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