RP, Thailand resume hearing on row over cigarette duties

PHILIPPINE and Thai negotiators late last week resumed their second hearing on an ongoing trade dispute over cigarette duties, the Manila delegation said in a statement over the weekend.

The dispute process had been held up when the World Trade Organization (WTO), which arbitrates the case, had to make way for the resumption of talks seeking to forge a global trade pact.

The Philippines, at the hearing last Nov. 4-6, reiterated claims that Thai tax policies on foreign-made cigarettes violate WTO rules as they unfairly favor domestic industry, the statement read.

A ruling from an international panel led by Brazil WTO representative Roberto Acevedo is expected early next year, the statement read further.

Manila first raised the dispute in March 2007 in line with Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc.’s complaint that Thai customs officials were ignoring declared customs values, preferring to set higher ones that meant higher duties needed to be paid.

This policy, along with higher excise taxes slapped on foreign-made cigarettes, violate free trade rules, Manila argued.

“The Philippine delegation… presented factual claims and legal arguments…challenging the WTO-consistency of customs and internal tax measures taken by Thailand affecting cigarettes made in the Philippines and imported into Thailand…[The delegation also] highlighted issues of transparency, discrimination, and domestic protection in Thailand’s regulatory regime, which affects the entry of Philippine-made cigarettes in the country.”

Both sides will have up to Dec. 7 to submit final comments before the panel issues a ruling “in the early part of 2010.”

source: beta.bworldonline.com

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