May 29, 2020

Cuba Challenges Australian Tobacco Rules

PARIS — Cuba is seeking to overturn Australia’s tough tobacco-labeling rules at the World Trade Organization, the trade body said Monday, the first time the Communist-controlled country has made use of the forum to directly confront another nation over its commercial laws.

Cuba, the world’s dominant producer of fine cigars, has filed a “request for consultations” with Australia, Keith Rockwell, a spokesman for the W.T.O., said from Geneva, where the organization is based.

The two nations now have 60 days to reach an agreement, he said; if they fail to resolve their differences in that time, the next step would be for Cuba to begin a formal challenge with the establishment of a dispute resolution panel.

The request was filed on Friday but only made public on Monday, he said.

Cuba is joining Ukraine, Honduras and the Dominican Republic in challenging Australia’s tobacco-labeling laws at the W.T.O. All four nations argue that provisions of a 2011 Australian law, the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act, have created “technical barriers” to trade and violate intellectual property rights.

If Australia is ultimately found to have broken W.T.O. rules, it must either bring its laws into conformity or face retaliation in the form of increased duties on Australian goods.

As part of a national antismoking drive, Australia has passed some of the world’s toughest laws on the labeling of cigars, cigarettes and other tobacco products, prohibiting “the use of logos, brand imagery, and promotional text” and strictly regulating the use of brand names. Tobacco products in Australia are sold in standard dark green boxes with gruesome images of people with diseases caused by smoking.

Australian and Cuban officials could not immediately be reached Monday for comment.

Cuba, seeking to reinvigorate a stagnant economy, has in recent years allowed more free-market activity. It joined the World Trade Organization in 1995 but has never before brought a formal challenge. It has, however, been involved in cases brought by others, including a dispute between the spirits makers Pernod Ricard and Bacardi over United States’ rights to the Havana Club rum brand.

The tobacco case puts Cuba in some curious company in seeking to overturn a democratic country’s health laws in the interest of its tobacco exports. The global tobacco industry spent millions of dollars in an unsuccessful campaign against the Australian law, and it continues to resist efforts by others — including the European Union — to follow suit.

Nevertheless, New Zealand officials have said they are planning to follow Australia’s packaging example by sometime next year.

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Europe Proposes New Tobacco Rules

BRUSSELS — Health warnings should cover 75 percent of cigarette packs but governments should also have leeway to require plain packaging, the European Commission said Wednesday.

The commission’s proposal would also ban cigarettes containing large quantities of flavorings including menthol and vanilla, restrict the sale of slimmer cigarettes and maintain a ban in most of the European Union on a form of chewing tobacco called snus.

The proposals still are less strict than in Australia, where a prohibition on logos and colorful designs went into effect this month. But the proposed ban on slim and super-slim cigarettes that are marketed to young women “is a positive development and a world first,” said the Smoke Free Partnership, a European organization that promotes tobacco control and research.

Tonio Borg, the E.,U. commissioner for health and consumer policy, said the overall goal of the so-called Tobacco Products Directive was to make smoking less attractive and to discourage young people from tobacco consumption.

“Consumers must not be cheated,” Mr. Borg said. “Tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products, and this proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavorings are not used as a marketing strategy.”

But Unitab, a European association of tobacco growers, said regulators had declared “total war” on their industry. The increased restrictions on branding would make price the deciding factor in tobacco sales; that in turn would favor suppliers from countries with lower production costs and put thousands of jobs in Europe at risk, the association said.

Written health warnings already must cover about 40 percent of a cigarette pack in the Union, although some countries also use pictorial warnings. In the future, Mr. Borg would like pictorial warnings to be mandatory, and for the warnings to cover three-quarters of the front and back of each pack of cigarettes, and half of each side.

E.U. officials conceded that the entire top and bottom sides of cigarette packs sold in Europe still could be used for branding under Mr. Borg’s proposals. Member states could opt to require plain packaging, however.

The directive also would require that smokeless electronic cigarettes providing more than a certain amount of nicotine should be available only in outlets like pharmacies. National or Europe-wide “test panels” would determine what quantities of flavoring like menthol should be banned, they said.

Much of the interest in the legislation in recent months had focused on apparent attempts to influence its wording.

Mr. Borg’s predecessor, John Dalli, resigned in October after the commission concluded that he had probably known about an attempt by a lobbyist to solicit a multimillion-dollar payoff in exchange for easing the ban on snus. The product can be sold only in Sweden, where some people consider it a safer alternative to smoking.

Mr. Dalli denied the allegations and said he was forced to resign under pressure from José Manuel Barroso, the president of the commission. Mr. Dalli also said his ouster had jeopardized chances for the revised directive to be passed before the current term of the European Parliament, which must approve the legislation, expires in 2014.

Mr. Borg suggested Wednesday that the law still could be adopted before the Parliament’s term expires, and go into force in 2015 or 2016.

But the Smoke Free Partnership warned that lobbying still could water down the proposals on labeling and packaging, as well as the ban on flavors and slim cigarettes. Governments and members of the European Parliament “are likely to face attempts by the tobacco industry to further block, weaken and delay this important legislation,” said Florence Berteletti Kemp, the director of the partnership.

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Webdenda: Accounts and People of Note in the Advertising Industry

Bottlerocket Marketing Group, New York and Foxborough, Mass., was acquired by Brand Connections, New York. Financial terms were not disclosed. The acquisition is the second in a month for Brand Connections, coming after a deal to acquire Pie Advertising, New York.

The Center for Tobacco Products at the Food and Drug Administration selected three agencies to work on public health education campaigns to help discourage youths ages 12 to 15 from using tobacco. The initial budget for the assignments during the next two years is $188.6 million. The Rescue Social Change Group, San Diego, will handle assignments aimed at four demographic groups: African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics and youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Sensis, Los Angeles, will handle assignments aimed at youth who live in rural communities. Better World Advertising, San Francisco, will handle assignments that are to be determined.

Jennifer Cohan joined Edelman, New York, part of Daniel J. Edelman Inc., as chairwoman of the global consumer practice. She succeeds Christina Smedley, who left to join PayPal, a unit of eBay, as vice president for global communications. Ms. Cohan had been a managing director at the New York office of GolinHarris, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

Tom Cotney joined mBlox, Sunnvale, Calif., as chief executive. He succeeds Andrew Dark, who is now nonexecutive chairman at Miura Systems. Mr. Cotney had most recently been a board adviser to Catavolt and before that held posts that included chief executive at Air2Web.

Craft Worldwide was formed by the McCann Worldgroup, New York, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, to unite all its production operations at a single business unit. Craft has more than 570 employees in almost two dozen cities that include London, Melbourne, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Toronto. Among the clients for which Craft is working are Aldi, Coca-Cola, General Mills, L’Oréal and Microsoft (Xbox).

Michael Di Girolamo, partner and executive producer at Station Film, was named the 2013 chairman of the AICP Show, sponsored by the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, New York. The date for the 22nd annual show, which will also include the presentation of the Next Awards, is to be announced early in the new year; the show is usually held in June at the Museum of Modern Art.

Kevin Dillon joined Ratio Interactive, Seattle, in a new post, president. He had most recently been director for engagement strategy at Ascentium, Seattle, now known as Smith.

Erin Dorr and Layla Revis joined the New York office of We Are Social. Ms. Dorr becomes an account director; she had managed social media and advocacy programs at the Dachis Group. Ms. Revis becomes senior director; she had been vice president for digital strategy at Ogilvy Mather Worldwide, part of WPP.

Emcee Design was opened by MeringCarson, Sacramento, Calif., to serve current and new clients. The design unit has seven employees and is being led by Michael Leonardini, design director at MeringCarson, and Mina Robertson, senior account manager at MeringCarson.

Samantha Fennell joined GTM, New York, in a new post, strategic adviser for branded entertainment. She had most recently been executive director at Time Inc. Branded Solutions, part of the Time Inc. unit of Time Warner.

Suzanne Grimes joined Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, New York, part of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, in a new post created after a reorganization, president and chief operating officer. She had most recently been a consultant and before that held executive posts at magazines owned by companies like Condé Nast Publications, News Corporation and the Reader’s Digest Association.

David Kurtz joined AdColony, Los Angeles, in a new post, chief product officer. He had most recently been vice president for the publisher network at ATT Interactive.

Duke Marr joined R/GA, New York, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, in a new post, managing director for commerce. He had been vice president for e-commerce product management at 1-800-Flowers. Also, R/GA opened an office in Austin, Tex., which it said in July it was planning to open later this year.

Mary Warren McCarthy, senior vice president and group director/strategy at Blitz Media, Boston, was promoted to a new post, chief media officer.

Norman M. Miller joined Niche Media, New York, in a new post, executive director for luxury brands. He had been integrated sales director at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, New York.

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Wholesale Costs Increased More Than Expected in July

The 0.2 percent advance in the producer price index followed a 0.4 percent decline in June, the figures showed. Economists forecast a 0.1 percent increase, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The so-called core measure, which excludes the sometimes volatile prices of food and energy, climbed 0.4 percent, the most since January.

The report showed the cost of crude goods fell in July for a third consecutive month, led by declining petroleum and food prices. Slowing sales and a decline in raw materials mean companies will be less likely to raise prices, which may give Federal Reserve policy makers more room to act to spur growth after the nation’s economy almost stalled.

Compared with July 2010, companies paid 7.2 percent more for goods last month after a 7 percent rise in June.

Excluding volatile food and energy costs, wholesale prices were projected to rise 0.2 percent from the previous month, the Bloomberg survey showed. Core wholesale prices climbed 2.5 percent in the 12 months ended in July, the biggest year-to-year increase since June 2009.

Fuel costs fell 0.6 percent as gasoline prices dropped 2.8 percent, the report showed. The cost of finished consumer foods increased 0.6 percent, led by potatoes and cheese.

Expenses for intermediate goods increased 0.2 percent from the previous month, while prices of crude goods dropped 1.2 percent.

Companies were charged 1 percent more for light motor trucks, while pharmaceutical prices climbed 0.4 percent. The cost of tobacco products rose 2.8 percent, the most since March 2009.

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