Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thailand says talks to resolve tobacco row with Philippines 'productive'

Informal meetings between Philippine and Thai trade officials early this month are expected to result in Bangkok’s full compliance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on tobacco.

“Thailand has continued to engage with the Philippines in discussions on issues of concern to the Philippines. Additional informal consultations requested by the Philippines with several Thai government agencies took place in Bangkok on May 3-4,” Thailand told the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in a May 13 status report. Thailand presented this status report during the DSB meeting on May 24.

During the said informal talks, the Philippines was represented by Ambassador Esteban B. Conejos Jr., the country's permanent representative to the WTO; Trade Assistant Secretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo; and Assistant Director Angelo Salvador M. Benedictos of the Department and Trade and Industry-Bureau of International Trade Relations (DTI-BITR).

Conejos had asked his Thai counterpart to schedule meetings with the concerned agencies in Thailand that have yet to comply with the WTO ruling.

“In Thailand’s view, these consultations were productive and provide the best means of resolving this dispute. Thailand looks forward to achieving a mutually satisfactory outcome to the dispute,” the status report read.

In 2011, Thailand lost the tobacco case that the Philippines lodged before the WTO in behalf of the Philippine unit of cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris. In its ruling, the WTO agreed that Thailand 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 instance, the Thai Customs’ Board of Appeals 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.-Interaksyon

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