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28 June 2010

Complaint on clove cigarette ban continues

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A protest against a US cigarette ban that affects Indonesian companies will stand — despite a U.S. statement that the country’s WTO complaint is “premature”, an official says, according to the Jakarta Post.

The government would do its best to fight U.S. discrimination of Indonesian-produced clove cigarettes that resulted from a new law aimed at reducing the number of young smokers in the U.S., said Gusmardi Bustami, the Trade Ministry’s director-general of international trade cooperation.

After a formal consultation between the countries in May failed to produce results, Indonesia formally submitted a complaint during a court session of the WTO’s (World Trade Organization) Dispute Settlement Body (DBS) at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva on June 22, Gusmardi said.

The Indonesian government had no other choice but to go to the international trade organization to settle a dispute about the country’s clove cigarette exports to the US because bilateral negotiations failed, he added.

Indonesia asked the WTO to create a panel of experts to rule on the issue — even though the countries have 60 days after a request is filed to resolve differences through consultations, Gusmardi said.

“We have conveyed our objections to the US tobacco restrictions at many bilateral forums for more than four years, and none of our attempts were successful,” he said.

In a DBS court session on Thursday, the US delegation expressed disappointment with Indonesia’s decision to file a dispute with the body.

“[The US] said it was premature and asked us to reconsider our request to establish a panel,” said Gusmardi.

As the accused, the US is allowed to right to oppose Indonesia’s request during the DBS’s first hearing session, according to the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) process. “But at the next DBS session the US will have no right to reject our request,” he said.

President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law in June 2009, which prohibits the sale of flavored cigarettes, including clove cigarettes, in the US.

Indonesia maintains that the law unfairly exempts menthol cigarettes from the ban.


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