Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As predicted

Last week, Australia finally passed its cigarette plain-packaging law. And, as predicted, Big Tobacco is suing them:

Tobacco giant Philip Morris is suing the Australian government over a new law making plain packaging mandatory for cigarettes from December 2012.

Australia's parliament has passed legislation that means all tobacco will need to be sold in plain olive-brown packets with graphic health warnings.


But Philip Morris Asia said the move breached a bilateral investment treaty.

It said it had served a notice of arbitration under Australia's Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong.

Philip Morris' argument is that the law destroys their investment in marketing cancer, and they're demanding billions of dollars in compensation for their "loss". Its a stark warning of the dangers of investment clauses in free trade agreements, and how they can be abused to intimidate governments into not regulating in the public interest. And its a warning we need to take to heart; the National government is currently negotiating just such a clause as an additional protocol to the New Zealand-Hong Kong, China Closer Economic Partnership. Which would enable Philip Morris to immediately sue us over our anti-powerwall legislation.

Such clauses are explicitly anti-democratic. They remove the power of a society to govern itself and hand that power over to multinational corporations. And all to protect the power and wealth of the few against the interests of the many. That is not something we should sign up to, and any government which does is selling out its own people.