World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevêdo yesterday appointed three panellists to examine the dispute against an Australian public health measure requiring tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging in the country. A decision in the case will be forthcoming in six months.

Five countries have brought varying but similar cases against Australia for the measure. The director general appointed the panellists because there was no agreement by the six parties in the dispute (five complainants and one respondent) on the composition of the panel, the WTO said. This case has the largest number of members in WTO history, a WTO source said.

The panellists will be:

  • Chairperson: Mr. Alexander Erwin (South Africa)
  • Members: Mr. François Dessemontet (Switzerland) and Ms. Billie Miller (Barbados)

The panel report will have to be issued in maximum six months after the date of the composition.

The six parties involved in this dispute (Australia, Ukraine, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Indonesia) agreed in April to accept the same panellists for all of the disputes ( IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 26 April 2014). They also agreed to harmonise the timetable for the panel proceedings, cooperate in all matters related to the agreement, and not to raise any procedural objections to any of the steps set out in it, according to sources.

The case initiated by Ukraine (WT/DS434) asserts a violation of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) trademark protection. The cases initiated by Honduras (WT/DS435), the Dominican Republic (WT/DS441), Cuba (WT/DS458) and Indonesia (WT/DS467), include an issue related to geographical indications, products named for particular places and characteristics.

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