The Hong Kong-Australia Business Investment Treaty

29 November 2011

Professor Gillian Triggs comments on moves by the tobacco multinational Philip Morris to sue the Commonwealth for damages over the new plain packaging laws.

According to a report on ABC Radio Current Affairs Program, PM, Phillip Morris has mounted a legal challenge under the 20 year old Hong Kong-Australia business investment treaty.
The tobacco giant claims plain packaging laws breach Australia's trade obligations and it should pay billions in compensation.

The report stipulates that never before has the Australian Government been sued for breaching a bilateral trade treaty.
The case will be heard behind closed doors in an ad hoc arbitral body.

Philip Morris has already chosen Singapore to represent its case.

Australia is yet to choose its advocate.
A theoretically impartial state agreed to by both sides will take a third seat on the arbitral panel.

The reports adds that there is no avenue of appeal.
The Dean, Professor Gillian Triggs says the origins of this sort of justice system are the colonial era.
"Where this law emerged from was the treaties that used to be known as friendship, commerce and navigation treaties where the big colonial powers invested heavily in Africa and particularly Latin America," Professor Triggs asserts.

"Then once their governments became in the early 20th century independent states they would then nationalise or expropriate the property of the foreign investor."
View the entire article - Australia taken to international trade court over tobacco laws - ABC Radio Current Affairs, PM

Contact: Greg Sherington

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