Six umbrella groups representing US business interests issued a joint statement condemning a proposed New Zealand law which will de-brand cigarettes and package them in plain, generic packaging.
The groups, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S.-ASEANBusiness Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the United States Council for International Business say the law violates international trade obligations and intellectual property rights.
The law is part of New Zealand’s campaign to end tobacco use in their country by the year 2025. Australia has already passed a similar law, and if the New Zealand version passes in the Parliament this week New Zealand will be in line with Australia in its approach to eliminating tobacco use.
The business groups expressed their “deep concern” in a statement released on Monday.
“This Bill, in effect, eliminates the right of a business to use its trademarks in everyday commerce. We respect the right of New Zealand to regulate in the public interest, but this is the wrong approach. It will violate New Zealand’s international-trade obligations, while facilitating illicit trade and counterfeiting,” said the statement.
“We would hope that the government of New Zealand would be cognizant of the importance of complying with its international trade and investment obligations and that it will await the outcome of the multiple legal challenges to Australia’s legislation before going forward with this unwise plain-packaging legislation, especially given the recent indications the Australian policy experiment is not working as intended,” it continued.
“We see this as a systemic threat to rules which intellectual property rights and the trading system, with their nexus to regulation, are dependent upon. We encourage the New Zealand government to consider the concerns we have raised for the possible impact on New Zealand exports, such as dairy and wine, should other governments feel emboldened to take similar unwarranted measures.”
New Zealand has stated previously that it would wait before enacting this legislation for the outcome of a lawsuit brought by a Hong Kong subsidiary of a US tobacco company against Australia.