The Uruguayan government presented its arguments on Monday in the dispute it has with the tobacco transnational Philip Morris, before the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington.
The head of the Uruguayan defense, the lawyer Paul Reichler, confirmed the presentation of the documents this Monday to the press agency AFP, although the documents, as well as the entire legal process, is still secret. Philip Morris did the same last May.
In July, the ICSID decided that it was entitled to rule on the case after Philip Morris accused Uruguay of violating a treaty of protection of investment signed with Switwerland, where the transnational company has its headquarters.
Philip Morris blames an anti-tobacco law approved in Uruguay that limits brands to one type each, and stipulated that warning messages must cover at least 80 percent of the packet.
Reichler said that the tobacco companies use all their power to keep the governments from informing the population about the effects of tobacco on health, including “arbitration over investments to obstruct or postpone the adoption of important measures of public health ... but Uruguay will not feel intimidated.”
A Philip Morris spokesperson, on the other hand, stated that “the case focuses on the arbitrary and unjustified restrictions that keep legitimate businesses from using its brands to sell its products.” According to him, “There are no conclusive studies that demonstrate a reduction of tobacco consuming since these measures were adopted.”
In the opinion of the lawyer and director of the U.S. NGO Tobacco Free Kids, Matt Myers, the legal case “has never and does not have anything to do with protection of investments. This is barely an attempt to abuse the commercial system to stop Uruguay from adopting measures for public health.”
"The ICSID will have the opportunity to send a strong message that this type of case is an abusive use of the commercial system that cannot be tolerated,” he added. He also said that “when Philip Morris presented this case, it warned that the case would bankrupt Uruguay. It was a message designed to be global. They wanted to make an example of Uruguay” for other countries tempted to adopt anti-tobacco legislation.
Philip Morris launched the lawsuit in 2010, demanding reimbursement for losses supposedly suffered by its business since the implementation of the Uruguayan law, as well as the repeal of several of its articles.
Since the start of the lawsuit, the Uruguayan government has received support from various international anti-tobacco organizations, especially in the United States, including the World Health Organization.