EU's planned tobacco curbs break WTO rules, Malawi says

Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:48pm EDT
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* Tobacco exports important for southern African state

* Malawi says new EU rules would impose trade barriers

* Eight other countries spoke out at WTO

By Tom Miles

GENEVA, March 15 (Reuters) - The European Union's plans for tough new anti-smoking rules would break international trade rules, Malawi has told the World Trade Organization, signalling a potential legal challenge from the developing world.

Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, is concerned that EU plans to make cigarettes less attractive to new smokers will hurt a sector which provides more than 60 percent of its foreign exchange earnings, according to a WTO survey in 2010.

"Malawi is deeply concerned that the EU's proposed Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) will significantly restrict trade, and is inconsistent with the EU's binding obligations under the TBT (technical barriers to trade) Agreement," the southern African country said in a statement posted on the WTO website on Friday.

It made the statement at a WTO committee meeting earlier this month, where it was one of nine countries - including Indonesia, Mexico, Cuba and the Philippines - to voice concerns about the EU's plans.

The EU policy proposals came after Australia, last December, enforced a ban on cigarette logos and required packets to be plain olive green with graphic health warnings.   Continued...