THE federal government has denied its officials would attend a buy cigarettes company-sponsored reception in Washington, despite being listed to do so.

A "world trade reception", part-sponsored by Philip Morris International, has named Australia as being among those who have ''confirmed ambassadors'' to attend the gathering - a development at odds with Australia's pioneering plan for plain pack cigarettes.

The reception, at Washington's swanky Willard Hotel, is scheduled for today Sydney time. Representatives of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Australia is negotiating to join, will attend.

Australia's listed attendance has surprised health groups, which claim the cheap cigarette online industry is using trade forums to frustrate anti-smoking cigarettes measures like plain packaging.

Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are scheduled to be held in Melbourne next week.

It was not clear yesterday whether the listing of Australia as an attendee was a mistake or whether the embassy had planned to be represented but had been instructed to pull out.

The office of the Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has confirmed that it told the Public Health Association of Australia that embassy officials would not be attending.

Michael Moore, the chief executive of the Public Health Association, said it was becoming clearer ''our international treaties have the potential to undermine our sovereign ability to make sensible decisions regarding public health in areas such as tobacco, alcohol and medicines''.

While the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement was being negotiated, Australia needed a government that would ensure the health of the population was not undermined, he said.

Mr Moore said the government's efforts on plain packaging showed ''they are prepared to stand up to big buy cigarette online and not be drawn into their attempts to free up their product through influencing international treaties''.

Matthew Myers, the president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said Philip Morris was trying to buy access and influence by sponsoring the ''exclusive'' corporate reception.

Mr Myers said Philip Morris International's actions showed tobacco should be excluded from the trade agreement given that the company had sued Australia, Uruguay and other countries in a bid to overturn measures to reduce smoking cigarettes.

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