Björling called the snus export ban “one of the clearest infringements on free trade within the EU” and vowed to step up her efforts to overturn the measure.
“This unilateral and clearly specially formulated legislation which prohibits ‘the release on the market of tobacco not intended for smoking or chewing’ cannot under the best intentions in the world be seen as anything other than discriminatory. And it’s only Swedish snus which is affected,” writes Björling in an article published in the Aftonbladet newspaper.
Björling likens the prohibition on selling snus elsewhere in the EU to banning the export of French wine or Danish meat, and has sent a letter to EU commissioner for the internal market Charlie McCreevy complaining that the ban contravenes EU regulations.
Specifically, Björling claims that the snus ban fails to fulfill EU requirements that internal trade restrictions be non-discriminatory and proportional to the economic damage they cause and asks that the matter be taken up for discussion.
“Swedish jobs and investments should obviously not be protected from competition, but our European friends shouldn’t expect that we will sit quietly and allow our companies to have their hands tied behind their backs and be excluded from the possibility of competing on a level playing field,” writes Björling.
Swedish Match, the major producer of snus, welcomed the news that the trade minister planned to make the issue a priority, adding that it viewed EU ban as unjustified.
“The export ban on snus has always been difficult to justify. For Swedish Match, Sweden’s membership of the EU has effectively shut the doors to neighbouring markets, contradicting the founding principles of the EU to open up for increased trade,” said Swedish Match’s vice president of public affairs, Patrik Hildingsson, in a statement.
“Swedish Match looks forward to the current ban being replaced by clear product regulation that would allow us to compete with our quality products on the same conditions as other Swedish companies.”