Home > news

Korean firms take issue with plain packaging

overiteMar.15.2012 15:43

By Kim Tae-gyu

Some Korean organizations have expressed their disappointment at so-called ``plain packaging’’ proposed by the Australian government. This would oblige all cigarette manufacturers selling products there to use homogenous pack designs without logos, trademarks or specific colors.

In time with the state visit of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard over the weekend, both the Korea Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association (KTGCA) and the Korea Trademark Association (KOTA) came up with such criticism.

Under the plain packaging scheme, tobacco manufacturers are allowed to use their brand names in a standard typeface, color and size on a plain-colored package in white or brown.

``The use of trademarks is the most fundamental part of commercial business that enables consumers to recognize the product they want, and the right to trademarks has been protected by international agreements and treaties against infringement,’’ the KTGCA said in a statement.

``By restricting the use of trademarks, the plain packaging policy deprives tobacco products produced in Korea of an opportunity to enter and compete in the Australian market, therefore, cutting out the possibilities of exporting tobacco produced in Korea to the country.’’

The organization claimed that plain packaging would not be in line with the two countries’ efforts to sign the free trade agreement.

``In the agricultural and livestock product area Australia is the third-largest exporter following the United States and China to Korea and Australia is currently in talks for a free trade agreement with Korea,’’ the association said.

``The Australian government has been making strong demands to open the agricultural market in Korea, posing a threat to livelihood of farmers in the country. Then, it should withdraw the plain packaging policy, which blocks potential exports to the Australian market of agricultural products from Korea.’’

It accused the Australian government of employing a double standard while arguing the proposed law on the plain packaging is not consistent with international norms.

KOTA also expressed its concern over the plain packaging policy on the grounds that it would infringe on intellectual property rights, which it contends will hurt Korean firms in the Australian market.

``With little respect to this real-world practice, the Australian government is pushing ahead with a plan to ban trademarks and logos, which play the most important role in the business activities. This is in violation of many international agreements and treaties, which Australia has joined as a binding member,’’ KOTA said.

The outfit also said the plain packaging policy deprives tobacco products of Korea of a chance to enter and compete in Australia. Korea’s homegrown cigarette producer KT&G has attempted to tap into offshore markets including Australia.

``It is in violation of the Technical Barriers to Trade agreement signed by members of the World Trade Organization since it sets an unnecessary barrier to trade between the two countries,’’ it said.