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Japan’s tobacco lobby seeks to head off indoor smoking ban

Push for country to adopt global norms opposed on grounds of existing outdoor prohibition

A Japanese plan to ban indoor smoking in public places before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, bringing the country in line with most of the developed world, is facing fierce resistance from the country’s powerful tobacco lobby.

Japanese smoking rates fell from 27.7 per cent of adults in 2003 to 18.2 per cent in 2015. But the nation’s remaining smokers, who are still able to pursue their habit inside restaurants, bars and workplaces, enjoy a level of freedom long ago stripped from counterparts elsewhere in the world. Nearly 50 countries have imposed blanket bans on indoor smoking and early drafts of the health ministry’s proposed revisions to Japan’s Health Promotion Law cite the success of legislation in the UK, France, and elsewhere. However, 231 municipalities in Japan, including in Tokyo and other major cities, have since the mid-2000s prohibited smoking in the street. The bans are largely in the name of hygiene and aesthetics, but with more than half an eye to passive smoking. The “manners” drive has created the often bizarre situation where smokers sitting on terraces outside restaurants or bars are obliged to come indoors to light up. Japan Tobacco, the world’s fourth-biggest cigarette maker by sales, which is 33.35 per cent owned by the state, has seized on this oddity in an effort to dilute the blanket ban on indoor smoking initially proposed by the health ministry.: Pragmatism on nicotine could save lives Encouraging safer alternatives to smoking can help end epidemic It is not fair to cite the success of smoking bans in places like the UK, continental Europe and the US, said a JT spokesman, because most Japanese smokers do not have the same option of going outside. JT’s argument appears to have borne fruit. On Wednesday, when the health ministry unveiled a revised proposal, the demands were heavily watered down from earlier versions, allowing exemptions for Japan’s thousands of bars and restaurants occupying less than 30 square metres of floor space. Finance minister Taro Aso, whose state portfolio includes the JT stake, last month expressed doubts over the harmful effects of smoking, referring to “various people” who question the link between smoking and lung cancer. Such views are echoed by Japan’s tobacco lobby, which has the support of an estimated 100 parliamentary members of the ruling Liberal Democratic party.

Other groups aligned against the health ministry on its indoor smoking ban plans include a bar and restaurant industry fearful that business would be devastated. JT approaches the debate from a stated position that it does not believe the case has been proved that second-hand smoking is a cause of diseases such as lung cancer. The World Health Organization has meanwhile awarded Japan’s existing efforts to prevent passive smoking the lowest rating available and the Japanese government’s own research suggests that as much as 40 per cent of people eating or drinking out are exposed to passive smoking. On the subject of imposing an indoor smoking ban to clean up Japan’s image ahead of the Olympics, JT said the event should instead be used to publicise the success of the country’s “smoke segregation” policies that divide smoking and non-smoking zones inside buildings.


In Nepal, health warnings cover 90 percent of cigarette packs, while Australia requires those packets be wrapped in drab, plain paper. Indonesia’s new ban on outdoor advertising brought down tobacco billboards depicting smiling, smoking youths. And India wants scary photos of rotting lungs and mouth tumors covering packets sold in the country.

Still, national drives to discourage smoking and cut back tobacco sales haven’t done enough, campaigners say. Smoking-related deaths are still rising worldwide, with 80 percent of them expected to occur in developing country populations by 2030.

“Most people in the United States think tobacco is over and done with, but it’s still the largest preventable cause of disease on the planet” killing 6 million people a year — or one person every six seconds, said John Stewart, deputy campaigns director at the Boston-based lobbying group Corporate Accountability International.

Starting Monday, representatives from at least 178 countries are meeting for five days in the Indian capital to discuss how they can further the fight against smoking and push back against tobacco company lobbyists.

Since they set down stiff regulations and guidelines in a landmark 2003 treaty called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — the first and only global treaty dealing with public health — most of the 180 signatories have ratified it and passed laws restricting tobacco advertising or sales.

Still, many governments remain entangled with powerful tobacco companies, while industry lobbyists continue attempts to stymie efforts to implement anti-smoking laws through bribery, misinformation and even suing national governments for lost profits, campaigners say.

“The tobacco industry is definitely feeling the heat,” Stewart said. “They’ve got their back against the wall.”

Indian courts are currently grappling with 62 lawsuits filed by tobacco companies or cigarette makers challenging laws requiring that 85 percent of all cigarette packets be covered with photos of medical horrors.

In Japan, a 10-percent hike in taxes on cigarettes has led to a 30-percent decline in smoking. But the country still has some of the lowest tax rates on cigarettes among industrialized nations, while its finance ministry owns 33 percent in Japan Tobacco.

The anti-tobacco campaign has had some success. It is widely accepted, at least among national leaders, that smoking causes cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, along with a host of other harmful health impacts.

That awareness still has not trickled down to national populations, though. And campaigners say tobacco interests have shifted their focus to poorer, less educated populations in the developing world.

India — among the first to ratify the anti-tobacco treaty in 2004 — is still considered one of the biggest battlegrounds in the fight against the tobacco industry, public health specialists say.

Despite harsh laws passed more than a decade ago banning smoking in public and sales to children, smoking is still common across the country. A government survey in 2010 showed nearly 35 percent of adults were either smoking or chewing tobacco.

Meanwhile, more than 1 million Indians die each year from tobacco-related diseases that cost the country some $16 billion annually, according to the World Health Organization.

“The revenues that the government earns from tobacco taxes are far less than the billions that are spent on health care,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay of the Voluntary Health Association of India, a public health organization.

“Public health and the health of the tobacco industry cannot go hand in hand,” she said, noting that campaigners are now pushing for countries to make tobacco companies and their shareholders civilly and criminally liable for the harm done by tobacco.

Part of the trouble in India is “the Indian consumer is spoilt for choice,” she said, with cigarettes sold alongside chewing tobacco and cheap, hand-rolled smokes known as bidis.

The easy availability and wide choice means many smokers get hooked at a young age. Some are initiated early through the common, cultural practice of chewing something called gutka, which combines tobacco with spices, lime and betel nut and is widely sold as a mouth freshener.

Putting pictorial warnings on cigarette packets is an attempt to educate people about the risks.

“The idea was that even an illiterate person, or a child, would understand the message about the health risks from smoking,” said Monika Arora of the Public Health Foundation of India, who runs an anti-smoking campaign aimed at young Indians. Nirmala George, New Delhi, AP

British American Tobacco to test e-cigarette in Japan

British American Tobacco PLC (BAT) plans to test a new tobacco-based cigarette alternative in Japan next month, it said on Tuesday, taking aim at Philip Morris International Inc’s popular iQOS and Japan Tobacco Inc’s Ploom Tech.

BAT said it plans to launch its new product, called “glo”, on Dec. 12 in the northeastern city of Sendai. It will then use learning from that launch to expand the product nationwide.

Glo electronically heats tobacco enough to create an inhalable vapour. That vapour, according to BAT, has about 90 percent less toxicant than smoke. The temperature of glo and the Kent Neostiks that go with it, is about 240 degrees Celsius, whereas combustion in traditional cigarettes takes place at over 800 degrees.

BAT has invested more than $1 billion over the past five years in the development, scale up and launch of cigarette alternatives.

It sells Vype e-cigarettes, which use nicotine liquid, in several European markets and is testing iFuse, a liquid-based e-cigarette that also uses tobacco, in Romania.

BAT has also developed a nicotine inhaler called Voke that can be licensed as a medical product in Britain, but it is not yet on the market.

The glo device will cost 8,000 yen ($76.61) with packs of twenty Kent Neostiks, which come in three flavours, costing 420 yen ($4.02).

BAT is also in the process of buying U.S. peer Reynolds American Inc in a $47 billion takeover that would create the world’s biggest listed tobacco company.


All big tobacco companies are investing in tobacco alternatives, as the cigarette market in most Western countries declines with more people giving up the habit. Some analysts think tobacco-based vapour products will be more successful at attracting cigarette smokers since they use tobacco and might therefore be more satisfying for smokers who cannot quit.

Philip Morris chose Japan as a test market for its “heat not burn” product due in part to regulations around nicotine liquid. Its iQOS, introduced nationwide in Japan in April, has turned out so popular that supplies are short.

“At this moment, we are seeing far greater demand than our expectations and iQOS devices sell out as soon as they hit stores,” said a Philip Morris Japan spokeswoman.

Japan Tobacco has also said production of its Ploom Tech has not caught up with demand. It has suspended taking orders on its online store and is limiting supply to stores in the city of Fukuoka, where it is test sold.

Japan Tobacco playing catchup as nation takes to vaping in big way

Competition to sate Japanese nicotine addicts is heating up.

Philip Morris International Inc. and Japan Tobacco Inc. have rolled out products that are heated — not burned — in battery-charged devices, seeking to appeal to smokers who want their nicotine fix without the usual smell and smoke. The move, part of the rapidly growing global vaping trend, has created a bright spot on Japan’s otherwise bleak tobacco market.

The approach is winning devotees because it avoids the part of smoking that involves setting tobacco on fire and inhaling the smoky fumes. In fact, demand for the cigarette alternatives — while still tiny compared with the paper-rolled type — has grown faster than manufacturers had anticipated, leaving Japan Tobacco grappling with a supply bottleneck and ceding ground to Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco company.

“Our goal for Japan is to switch every consumer we have to this,” said Paul Riley, who joined Philip Morris in Sydney in 1988 and became its Japan unit’s president last September. “For me, it’s like a no-brainer. The biggest thing is we know that smoking kills. If we’ve got an alternative to that, that’s a pretty good reason to switch.”


Sales of electronic nicotine delivery systems are booming. Within a decade, the industry has grown from a single manufacturer in China in 2005 to 466 brands on the market, according to the World Health Organization.

More than $50 billion may be spent annually on the devices worldwide by 2030, WHO says, noting “concern about the role of the tobacco industry in this market” and the potential for the products to serve as a “gateway to nicotine addiction.”

Most of the products haven’t been tested widely enough by independent scientists to gauge any harm-reduction benefits and to determine whether they can help smokers quit. Still, the reduced exposure to toxicants of well-regulated devices by adult smokers as a complete substitution for cigarettes is likely to be less toxic for the smoker than conventional cigarettes or other combusted tobacco products, the Geneva-based WHO said in a September 2014 report.

Companies have seized on that in Japan, where the smoking rate among adults has been falling for decades, dropping below 20 percent in 2014 — the lowest since annual surveys began in 1965. Cigarette sales declined 0.7 percent to $32.1 billion in Japan last year, while vapor-producing products increased fivefold to $4.6 million, according to Euromonitor International.

Japan Tobacco shares have dropped about 14 percent so far this year, in line with the decline of the MSCI Japan Food, Beverage and Tobacco Index.

“Tobacco companies are seeking the chance for new opportunities in the tobacco market in Japan,” said Akari Utsunomiya, a research analyst with Euromonitor in Tokyo.

So-called electronic cigarettes have shown “strong potential,” she said in an email. “The product is seen as extremely hygienic in a country that values both cleanliness, as well as being seen as ‘more healthy’ due to the lack of smoke compared to cigarettes.”

Philip Morris began selling its heat-not-burn vaporizer, called iQOS, nationwide in Japan in April after testing it in selected sites from 2014. Monthly sales in the 10 countries in which it’s sold now top 250,000, with Japan accounting for more than 95 percent.

The ¥9,980 device, which works by inserting a tobacco-containing HeatStick into a cigar-shaped heating device, has more than 6 percent of the broader cigarette market in Tokyo, according to Phillip Morris’s Riley, who expects that share to double in the next year. A pack of 20 Marlboro-brand HeatSticks sells for ¥460 — the same as a traditional pack of 20 Marlboro cigarettes.


Tetsuo Yamamoto, a 40-year-old Tokyo designer, said he took up using iQOS to help him quit his 20-year-long smoking habit. Now, he says he can’t stand the bitterness and smell of paper cigarettes. “I’m relieved as my wife doesn’t complain any more if I take a puff in front of her,” Yamamoto said.

“It’s a game changer,” said Masashi Mori, an equities analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG in Tokyo, who sees vapor-producing products eventually gaining a 10 percent foothold in Japan’s tobacco market. “There is no doubt that iQOS is taking the lead, and it looks like Japan Tobacco is still testing the water from both the production and marketing perspective.”

Japan Tobacco began selling its Ploom Tech system in March in about 900 convenience stores and retail outlets in Fukuoka Prefecture as well as via an online store. The pen-shaped, battery-powered device uses vapor from heated liquid to deliver the taste and other properties of granulated tobacco leaves in a capsule.

A week after its release, Ploom Tech shipments were suspended as demand exceeded supply. When deliveries resumed, about 100,000 online orders were received in around 15 days, Executive Deputy President Hideki Miyazaki told reporters in Tokyo in August.


“The market response was tremendous — beyond our expectations — and we are still having to limit our product supply,” said Naohiro Minami, Japan Tobacco’s chief financial officer, on an Aug. 2 conference call with analysts and investors, according to a transcript.

The device costs ¥4,000 and is used in combination with one of three types of tobacco capsule from the company’s best-selling Mevius brand. A pack of five capsules sells for ¥460, ¥20 more than a 20-stick pack of the brand’s traditional cigarettes.

Nicotine-laced liquid — commonly used in e-cigarettes popular in the U.S. — is categorized as a pharmaceutical ingredient in Japan, where it’s strictly controlled. In contrast, vapor-producing products that use tobacco leaves, such as iQOS and Ploom Tech, are viewed as pipe tobacco, while nonnicotine e-cigarettes aren’t regulated in Japan and are available even to minors.


Keiichi Ando sought to catch the emerging vaping wave in Tokyo two years ago, opening a Vaping Ape store in Shibuya, a shopping and entertainment district popular with teenagers.

While none of the more than 150 varieties he stocks contains nicotine, sales have been increasing gradually, Ando said. On a visit to the fog-cloaked shop last week, one customer said switching to vaping helped him quit using tobacco.

Japan Tobacco is already feeling the heat. On Aug. 1, it cut its domestic sales target for paper cigarettes by 1 billion units to 107 billion for the year ending this December to reflect competition from the vaped alternatives after suffering a 7.9 percent slide in the volume of stick sales in July.

With plans to invest “several tens of billions of yen” in tobacco-vaping over the next four years, Japan Tobacco aims to become the market leader, Miyazaki told reporters.

He didn’t say when Ploom Tech would be released nationwide or overseas.

“A lot of our customers are still waiting for Ploom Tech, so we will boost production as soon as possible,” said Masanao Takahashi, director of the company’s emerging products marketing division, in an interview. “They just continue to sell out at shops in Fukuoka.”

Electronic Marlboro sucks smokers away from Japan Tobacco

TOKYO: Marlboro maker Philip Morris International says its e-cigarette has rapidly captured close to 3 percent of Japanese tobacco sales, making inroads into a market Japan Tobacco (JT) relies on for 40 percent of its profit.

In what may be an early vindication of Philip Morris’s e-cigarette strategy, the iQOS accounted for 2.2 percent of Japan’s tobacco sales in the quarter ended June 30, a company spokesman said.

That share had climbed to 2.7 percent by the end of June after Philip Morris rolled out the 9,980 yen ($98.53) electronic smoker in late April accompanied by “HeatSticks”, which cost the same as regular cigarettes.

“The figures clearly show that iQOS is stealing a chunk of the rolled tobacco market,” said Masashi Mori, analyst at Credit Suisse Securities in Tokyo. Japan’s overall cigarette sales in June shrank 5.2 percent.

On Friday, JT said revenue from July cigarettes sales in Japan dipped by 3.4 percent to 53.4 billion yen.

Unlike conventional e-cigarettes that vaporise a nicotine infused liquid, iQOS produces a smokeless aerosol by heating tobacco leaf packed into stubby cigarettes inserted into the device.

So far it has tested the gadget in seven countries including cities in Switzerland and Italy. Japan, which has suppressed e-cigarette “vaping” by regulating nicotine liquids under pharmaceutical laws, is the only country where it is sold nationwide.

Demand for iQOS, which is made in Malaysia, has outstripped demand, leaving Philip Morris unable to make the most of its early entry into Japan. Some limited-edition IQOS models are selling online for as much as 80,000 yen.

“When Philip Morris can supply enough to meet demand then its push in to the market is very likely to accelerate,” UBS Securities Japan analyst Naomi Takagi said.

E-cigarettes assuage some smokers’ health concerns and ease social stigmas attached to tobacco. Tobacco firms are battling to take an early lead in the emerging market as overall cigarette sales shrink globally.

Sales of e-cigarettes, however, are booming, growing five times to $8 billion in 2014 from 2010, according to research company Euromonitor. The market in 2020 is likely to be 20 times the 2010 level, predicts Euromonitor. Global cigarette revenue is about $750 billion.

Philip Morris plans to widen sales of iQOS to 20 countries by the end of the year.
Former state tobacco monopoly Japan Tobacco, which has 60 percent of its domestic market, is struggling to counter the challenge with its own device. JT’s electronic cigarette stick, dubbed the Ploom TECH, creates a vapor from a liquid that is passed through granulated tobacco.

Yet the world’s No. 3 cigarette maker has so far been unable to match iQOS’s nationwide launch, with no clear indication yet when it will have sufficient production output to do so.

“It doubtful JT will manage a wider launch before the end of the year,” Takagi at UBS Securities said.

Philip Morris International is Dominating the E-Cigarette Revolution in Japan

Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM) is making big inroads in the Japanese tobacco market with its iQOS smokeless tobacco e-cigarettes, which could drive big revenues in a country with 20 million smokers.

In what may be an early vindication of Philip Morris’s e-cigarette strategy, the iQOS accounted for 2.2 percent of Japan’s tobacco sales in the quarter ended June 30, a company spokesman said.

That share had climbed to 2.7 percent by the end of June after Philip Morris rolled out the 9,980 yen ($98.53) electronic smoker in late April accompanied by “HeatSticks”, which cost the same as regular cigarettes.

“The figures clearly show that iQOS is stealing a chunk of the rolled tobacco market,” said Masashi Mori, analyst at Credit Suisse Securities in Tokyo. Japan’s overall cigarette sales in June shrank 5.2 percent.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cig sales are jumping around the world as former smokers flock to what is widely considered a safer alternative to tobacco. The e-cig market saw $8 billion in sales in 2014, more than five times 2010′s total.

Philip Morris is investing heavily in the new technology and wants to expand its reach to many other nations soon.

Philip Morris plans to widen sales of iQOS to 20 countries by the end of the year.

Former state tobacco monopoly Japan Tobacco, which has 60 percent of its domestic market, is struggling to counter the challenge with its own device. JT’s electronic cigarette stick, dubbed the Ploom TECH, creates a vapor from a liquid that is passed through granulated tobacco.

Philip Morris International shares rose $0.49 (+0.50%) to $99.35 in Friday afternoon trading. The largest U.S.-based international seller of tobacco products has seen its stock rise 13% year-to-date, nearly doubling the performance of the S&P 500 in the same period.


Smoking E-Cigarettes is 10 Times More Cancerous than Tobacco

So you probably thought you were fine now that you quit smoking. No cancer for you, no sir! No filthy chemically stuffed cigarettes for you! You’ve opted for that funky and cool alternative they call e-cig. Why shouldn’t you be that confident? After all, the CDC and FDA are fine with it, so it must be safe. Oh, but it isn’t; in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! According to a recent study – that has nothing to do with the CDC/FDA – electronic cigarettes were found to be contain 10 times as much cancerous ingredients than a regular tobacco cigarette.

I bet you didn’t see that one coming!

You may wonder how in the heavens this has passed the FDA’s notice. Well, with $ 4.5 billion that is supposed to be funding for studies exactly like this one, the FDA didn’t seem to think it necessary to do any research on this product’s safety. If you go over to the FDA website and check out when they have to say about electronic cigarettes, you’ll find a bunch of quality control and standardization stuff. However, they do mention quite clearly that “FDA has not evaluated any e-cigarettes for safety or effectiveness.” There you have it. They admit it. So how the hell are you using this? How are you allowing your kids to play around with it, too?

Well, it’s not your fault; you’re unaware. And Japanese scientists have taken it upon themselves to make the world aware of this threat. The Japanese Ministry of Health commissioned a research about the safety of electronic cigarettes, and the scientists found around 10 cancer-causing carcinogens more than those found in a regular old school Tobacco smoke. They found formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in the liquid that you smoke through the electronic cigarette. They also found that these carcinogens fuel drug resistant pathogens that humans may contract.

Even before the Japanese found these shocking results, in 2015 the WHO asked governments to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under age people. Furthermore, the UN health agency said that despite there not being any evidence about their unsafety, they wanted “to caution children and adolescents, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age”. They also tried to outlaw their use indoors.

Well, once again, thanks to the Japs for being smarter and more aware than the rest of the world.

Tobacco price increase and smoking behaviour changes in various subgroups

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Philip Morris rolls out iQOS smokeless smokes

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Japan and Korea stake out tough anti-counterfeiting positions in proposed trade deal

Trade representatives from 16 Asian countries are convening in Kyoto this week for an eighth round of negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. In the run-up to the meeting a series of leaks revealed the IP positions of four key parties to the deal (Japan, Korea, India and ASEAN), which indicate that the East Asian nations are hoping to codify tough measures against counterfeiting.

Back in April, this blog covered the leaked provisions of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which some observers feared could affect plain packaging laws in Australia and elsewhere by giving tobacco companies more leeway to sue governments over alleged appropriation of their brand assets. The RCEP is an alternative trade deal being negotiated exclusively by Asian countries. But while it is relatively unknown compared to the TPP, if passed the RCEP could have a greater impact on regional trademark enforcement efforts. That is because, unlike the TPP, it involves China, India and the whole of ASEAN (though four ASEAN states are also negotiating TPP). Taken together, these markets probably account for the lion’s share of the enforcement activities undertaken by global brands focused on the region. Therefore, any change in policy could have a notable impact.

The question on everyone’s mind is how similar or dissimilar the RCEP will be to the TPP. Four proposed IP chapters leaked by Knowledge Economy International (KEI) give insight into the negotiating positions of Japan, Korea, India and ASEAN (which is negotiating as a bloc), while a leak of the proposed IP chapter of the latter agreement revealed what is shaping up to be a strongly rights-holder friendly system. Given the Obama administration’s repeated refrain of “If we don’t write the trade rules, China will”, there has been some speculation about whether RCEP could emerge as a homegrown alternative to the TPP – potentially without all of the IP protections sought by Western corporations. But the leaks make clear that Japan and Korea are pushing for a TPP-style regime.

While many of the most contentious flashpoints are in the patent space, surrounding issues like compulsory licensing for pharmaceuticals, anti-counterfeiting is one area where there are marked differences in the proposals that have now been made public.

One area in which both Japan and Korea are seeking to enshrine strong anti-counterfeiting measures is in the realm of customs enforcement. Both propose that customs authorities be empowered to act ex officio to suspend the release of trademark infringing goods for import, export or transhipment. India’s proposal makes no specific mention of customs enforcement, while ASEAN’s includes a general call for cooperation on border measures. The leaked TPP draft makes clear that there are splits within ASEAN on the issue: Vietnam opposes the inclusion of ex officio powers for customs officials, while Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia support granting such authority only over goods imported into a country, not goods which are exported or in transit.

Another strict measure sought by both Korea and Japan relates to criminal prosecution in cases of wilful trademark infringement or counterfeiting on a commercial scale. Both countries’ proposals also detail standards to ensure that wronged parties are granted adequate damages and other remedies in civil and criminal litigation. Again, neither the ASEAN nor the Indian chapters cover this issue in detail. The TPP draft includes similar language but there is ample disagreement over the details; Vietnam, for example, supports criminal sanctions for commercial-scale import of counterfeit goods, but not export.

Beyond counterfeiting, there is discord over whether the agreement should require signatories to extend protection to non-traditional trademarks. India’s submission proposes that parties may require a mark be visually perceptible to be reigistrable. Korea, which allows sound and scent marks, wants such marks to be accepted throughout the region. It may be joined in this by Japan, which has introduced its own system of non-traditional marks in the time since its proposal was authored. The TPP draft in circulation looks set to extend protection of sound marks, while parties including Vietnam, Brunei and Japan oppose adding similar language about scents.

Another issue this blog has covered which is likely to be a hot topic in Kyoto is India’s strict FDI rules. Countries including Japan and Australia are likely to ask for the addition of an e-commerce chapter to the agreement pressuring India to open up that part of its economy, allowing foreign brands to sell goods online directly to Indian consumers.

Of course the usual caveats apply here: these positions are all at least nine months old and could be far from what ends up in the final agreement (especially because we haven’t yet heard from China). But it’s clear that Japan and Korea have an incentive (due to the former’s role in the TPP and the latter’s FTA with the US) to lobby for robust trademark protection policies. Rather than rival alternatives, it looks likely that the two agreements could be mutually reinforcing. With the TPP near completion and the RCEP aiming to wrap up negotiations by the end of this year, we should soon have more than just speculation to go on. And then we’ll know who gets the first crack at “writing the rules” for intellectual property in Asia.