Saturday, April 20, 2013

Philippine, Thailand trade officials meet next month on tobacco tax row

Philippine and Thai trade officials will discuss next month how Bangkok can fully comply with the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on tobacco favoring Manila, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official told on Friday.

“Technical discussions have been set in Bangkok early next month,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for international economic relations Laura Q. Del Rosario said in a text message.

Del Rosario said the Philippine delegation will include officials at the assistant secretary-level from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Discussions will “focus on the technical points of the case,” Del Rosario said.

The Philippines’ permanent mission to the WTO had asked its Thai counterpart to schedule meetings with concerned Thai agencies that have yet to comply with the WTO ruling.

In 2011, Thailand lost the tobacco case lodged by the Philippines before the WTO in behalf of the Philippine unit of cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris. Manila had alleged that Bangkok slapped discriminatory taxes on cigarettes imported from the Philippines.

To comply with the WTO decision, Thailand last year adopted a royal decree abolishing the value-added tax (VAT) exemption enjoyed by resellers of locally made cigarettes, making them at par with imports, which were not VAT-exempt.

But Thailand has yet to fully comply with the WTO ruling even as the reasonable period of time to comply lapsed last year. For one, the Thai Customs’ Board of Appeals (BOA) ruling issued last November concerning certain customs valuation entries of imported tobacco from 2002 to 2003 was “inconsistent” with WTO rules, the Philippine WTO mission had said.

The Philippine-Thai tobacco row is on the agenda of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) meeting on April 24.-Interaksyon (April 20, 2013)

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