Monday, March 28th, 2016 - ANTARA News Agency

JAKARTA, Mar 25, 2016 - (ACN Newswire) - Indonesian Trade Minister Thomas Lembong has said that plain packaging for the cigarette industry as implemented by Australia is completely inappropriate.

Indonesia as the second largest exporter of manufactured tobacco products in the world will surely be affected should the proposal be approved by the World Trade Organization (WTO). He said that tobacco products are one of the country's national interests.

"There are millions of workers working in tobacco, clove plantation, and for tobacco product industries. Hence, in this matter we are against the policy issued by Australian Government," he said on Tuesday (3/22/2016).

Thomas later added, it is normal that in the matter of trade partnership, all parties are not required to be in mutual agreement on every issues. "There will be disagreement, but this is common and can be understood by both parties. Even the best partnerships are prone to dispute and conflict," he said.

However, he ensured that despite this disagreement, a positive synergy must still be built. Trade partnerships must be maintained above all else.

Rejections of this plain packaging were also conveyed by a number of domestic organizations in Australia. Director of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), Simon Breheny, said that the regulation had failed to achieve the desired effect to decrease the number of smokers.

"Based on the data we've gathered, we saw no decrease due to this regulation. In our opinion the removal of the colors and logos from packaging was not within the government's scope of authority. It would be better if the government paid more attention to the regulations governing public smoking than the smoking habits of the public," he said.

A different objection was expressed by the President Director of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), Jeff Rogut. He said that this regulation had caused in an increase in the service times in stores because all the packages were very similar in appearance. 

"Not to mention that storekeepers hand over the wrong products to the purchasers, because the similar forms and colors make it difficult to differentiate one product from another. This has created new problems. This regulation has also led to the increased circulation of illegal cigarettes," he said. 

Based on data from the Ministry of Trade, the cigarette industry contributes 1.66 percent to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Indonesia and foreign exchange via exports to other countries amounting to US$700 million.

This industry also directly and indirectly involves approximately 6.1 million workers and 1.8 million clove and tobacco farmers.

Indonesia and three other countries, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, previously sued Australia at the WTO over the plain packaging proposal. This lawsuit is believed to be the largest case ever dealt with by the WTO.


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