US Chamber of Commerce

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According to its website, the United States (US) Chamber of Commerce is the “World’s largest business organisation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions…They all share one thing in common – they count on the Chamber to be their voice in Washington DC.”[1] The Chamber’s explicit aim is to drive a pro-business agenda and strengthen the competitiveness of the US economy by advocating on behalf of business: “Our nationally recognized team of lobbyists, communicators, and policy experts advance the business community’s interests.” [1]

Links with Tobacco Industry

Altria, who own a number of tobacco companies and an alcohol company, is a member of the US Chamber of Commerce.[2] Furthermore, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at Altria’s Client Services, Bruce Gates, is on the Board of Directors of both the US Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers.[3]

Against Plain Packaging

The Chamber has been vocal in its opposition to plain packaging in countries considering its implementation. Specifically, it has issued joint statements with other business organisations in Australia, the UK and New Zealand,[4][5][6] submitted responses to consultations in these two countries[7][8] and sent letters directly to policy makers in Australia discouraging plain packaging legislation.[9]

Australia

In response to the March 2011 draft tobacco plain packaging Bill in Australia, the US Chamber of Commerce sent a letter directly to the Assistant Secretary of the Drug Strategy Branch stating that PP legislation would “destroy the value of trademarks without advancing public health objectives” and is “inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations”.[9]

Australia, UK and New Zealand

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD), the Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) and the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) issued joint statements in response to announcements that Governments were to consult on plain packaging proposals in Australia in 2011,[6] and both the UK[5] and New Zealand in 2012.[4] In these statements the business associations argued that:

  • the tobacco industry’s brands are protected by intellectual property laws and treaties
  • maintaining intellectual property is fundamental to businesses, the economy and jobs
  • there are likely to be serious unintended consequences such as increases in illicit trade which “robs the government of revenue, undermines public health objectives, impairs legitimate business and enriches organised crime.” [5]
  • there is no evidence that public health objectives of the policy will be realised and that there are legitimate alternatives available
  • this policy would pave the way for others stating, “although presently this effort is only confined to tobacco products, we see this as a systemic threat to rules which intellectual property and the trading system is dependent upon.”[4]

To view counter arguments to the aforementioned please visit: Countering Industry Arguments against Plain Packaging.

In mid-2014, following the publication of research data in Australia suggesting that smoking prevalence in the country reduced significantly from 2011 to 2013,[10] the Senior Vice President of the US Chamber of Commerce, David Hirschmann (who is also the President and CEO of the Center for Capital Markets Competiveness (CCMC) and President and CEO of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) at the US Chamber of Commerce) published a letter in The Washington Post reiterating the Chamber’s previous arguments against the policy, calling it “state-sponsored trademark destruction” and criticising those in public health who have attributed the decline in smoking prevalence in Australia to the introduction of plain packaging.[11] The GIPC, in its own words, “works with partners in key capitals and regions around the world to facilitate a positive and ongoing dialogue with national governments and domestic stakeholders on the importance of protecting and enforcing IP rights.”[12]

Cited by Japan Tobacco International in its Submission to the UK Consultation on Plain Packaging 2012

In addition to submitting its own response to the plain packaging consultation, the US Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 joint statement with TABD, ECAT, NAM, USCIB and NFTC was also cited by JTI in its submission to the UK plain packaging consultation. In this submission, JTI did mention whether any of these organisations had connections with tobacco companies.

JTI states that “EU and UK law concerns regarding plain packaging have been expressly recognised by both Governments and expert bodies” before proceeding to quote the business organisations’ joint statement:

“We believe it is important to make clear our serious concerns with the prospect that the UK Government may mandate the destruction of an industry’s legitimate trademark protection and branding – rights long protected under law and treaties…The rule of law and legal certainty are not just very important for the business community. They are vital to ensure that innovation is encouraged and rewarded and meaningful jobs are created.”[5][13]

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 US Chamber of Commerce, About the US Chamber, accessed July 2014
  2. Altria, Government Affairs, Engaging with others: membership in policy-orientated organizations, accessed July 2014
  3. Altria, Board of Directors, accessed July 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 US Chamber of Commerce, TransAtlantic Business Dialogue, Emergency Committee for American Trade, National Association of Manufacturers, National Foreign Trade Council, US Council for International Business, US Business Groups Issue Statement Expressing Deep Concern Following Announcement by the New Zealand government of a Public Consultation to Review the Mandated Destruction of Trademarks and Branding in the Tobacco Sector, Press Release by National Foreign Trade Council, 20 April 2014, accessed July 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Council for International Business and the National Foreign Trade Council, Business groups issue statement expressing deep concern following announcement by Her Majesty’s Government that the United Kingdom is starting a public consultation to review the mandated destruction of trademarks and branding in the tobacco sector, PR Newswire Press Release, 13 April 2012 accessed July 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Council for International Business, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the US-ASEAN Business Council, the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue and the National Foreign Trade Council, NFTC joins other leading US business groups in opposing the Australian Government’s proposed plain packaging legislation, Press Release by National Foreign Trade Council, 1 June 2011, accessed July 2014
  7. Minstry of Health, Overseas submissions on the plain packaging of tobacco products consultation, New Zealand, 21 February 2013, accessed July 2014
  8. Department of Health, Consultation on standardised packaging of tobacco products: Summary Report, July 2013, accessed July 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 US Chamber of Commerce, USA Chamber of Commerce Australia plain packaging proposal: Letter from Senior Vice President of International Affairs US Chamber of Commerce to Assistant Secretary of the Drug Strategy Branch Australia, Australian Government Department of Health, 26 May 2011, accessed July 2014
  10. Australian Government, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, National drugs strategy household surveys: Highlights from the 2013 survey – Tobacco Smoking, ,accessed July 2014
  11. D. Hirschmann, The effects of cigarette packaging rules are not plainly apparent, The Washington Post, 24 July 2014, accessed July 2014
  12. Global Intellectual Property Center US Chamber of Commerce, International advocacy, 2012, accessed July 2014
  13. JTI, Response to the Department of Health’s consultation on the standardised packaging of tobacco products, 3 July 2012