US lobby groups say packaging proposals are an 'assault' on owners' rights and may damage trade
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been warned that plans to outlaw company logos on cigarette packets is an "assault" on brand owners' rights and would send "a troubling message" to Ireland's trading partners.
"We are highly concerned about the broader impact packaging standardisation requirements would have on the international trading system and manufacturers through other major sectors of the economy," the National Association of Manufacturers lobby group, based in Washington, warned the Irish Government.
The Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Foreign Trade Council and the US Chamber of Commerce have also warned that the proposals to standardise cigarette packs and outlaw branding is an "assault" on manufacturers and their brands.
"We are deeply concerned that Ireland's proposed revisions of the Tobacco Products Directive will violate its international trade and investment obligations and undermine the rules-based international trading system well beyond tobacco," the National Association of Manufacturers warned in a letter to Mr Kenny.
Major brand owners in the US are said to be seriously concerned that if branding of cigarette packets is outlawed, this could spread to other sectors in the food and drinks industry. Most international multinationals invest massive sums in marketing and promoting their brands.
"The implementation of the plain packaging initiative would also encourage counterfeiting and other forms of illicit activity," said the National Association of Manufacturers.
The National Foreign Trade Council, which represents 250 American global companies, said the proposal for standardised packaging of any product was "a serious infringement on intellectual property rights, regardless of the products to which they apply".
The US Chamber of Commerce, which is the world's largest business federation, said that while it was a strong supporter of measures to protect public health, the proposals would "diminish" the rights of brand owners.
"The result of such actions could be a reduction in confidence from other brand owners across industries and a subsequent loss of investment and jobs in the EU," it said.
"Trademarks protect the reputation of companies and their products and prevent confusion and deception. For many of our members the brand itself, the reputation of which they built over years of providing good quality goods and services, is the most valuable asset of a company."
The submissions were made to the Government and the EU following proposals in the current Tobacco Products Directive, which they say will violate international trade law and agreements.