Philip Morris fails in PCA arbitration against Australia over plain packaging laws

On December 17, 2015, a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) issued its jurisdictional award in the case of tobacco giant Philip Morris against Australia over the country’s tobacco plain packaging legislation. According to the PCA website, the award will be made available to the public once any confidential information has been redacted. Philip Morris admitted in a news release that the tribunal dismissed jurisdiction over the case. Accordingly, the tribunal did not rule on the merits.

Australian Senator Peter Whish-Wilson welcomed the result as a victory, commending plain packaging as an effective public policy tool. However, he cautioned that Australia is not free from similar challenges by foreign corporations under ISDS mechanisms contained in its trade and investment agreements with China, Korea, and the United States. “ISDS is the Damocles Sword hanging over Australia’s sovereignty and our right to legislate in the public interest,” he said. The Senator also indicated that the successful defence against Philip Morris reportedly cost Australian taxpayers US$35 million.

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