Twist to asylum deal: Tobacco industry lobbies Malaysia to influence Australia

Big Tobacco has been lobbying Malaysia to pressure Canberra to drop the Australian Government’s plan to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

It has enlisted the help of a former United States ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Peter Allgeier to help the tobacco giant fight the Aussie plan, ABC television reported Thursday night.

It is reported that Allgeier, who now works for a Washington-based consultancy firm wrote an email to Kuala Lumpur saying: “There are several opportunities forthcoming for Malaysia and other like-minded governments to
persuade Australia not to proceed.”

According to the ABC report, Allgeier suggested Malaysia could raise concerns with the WTO’s technical barriers to trade committee or at the next meeting of the organisation’s intellectual property rights council.

In January, the Australian Associated Press reported cigarette company Philip Morris wanted a clause added to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), now being negotiated, which will allow the company to sue the Australian
Government if it introduced plain packaging.

It is reported that Philip Morris has lobbied the US trade representative regarding the TPPA.

Australian’s Health Minister Nicola Roxon told ABC television on Thursday that she has not been approached by Malaysia on the issue, but said Allgeier’s appointment demonstrated just how far Big Tobacco was prepared to take its
fight.

“But we won’t be frightened off because Big Tobacco is hiring lobbyists or looking at ways to influence the action we’re taking,” she said.

She said it was not for her to answer whether Malaysia had been enlisted because of its current negotiating power over the proposed asylum seeker swap deal with Australia.

Roxon said Australia had received plenty of international support over its plain packaging bid and the Health Minister said she was not about to listenĀ  to any of the detractors.

She is also confident the legislation stands up to legal scrutiny, amid threats from Big Tobacco to take the government to court over intellectual property violations.

– Bernama