PH, Thailand try new route to resolve cigarette dispute

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    The Philippines has conceded  to  a World Trade Organization (WTO) facilitator-led resolution of its  dispute with Thailand over cigarettes but its plan to withdraw tariff concessions will proceed if the matter is not resolved within an agreed timeline.

    “The Philippines is closely monitoring the progress in the facilitator-led process being undertaken in Geneva to try to formulate a comprehensive decision to Dispute Settlement case 371 lodged against Thailand. However the Philippines remains  ready to, following WTO procedures, to initiate the process if suspension for concessions,” said

    Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo in a press conference last week.

    Rodolfo said the domestic process, particularly the public hearings being conducted by the Tariff Commission on whether or not to  suspend concessions to Thailand, will continue.

    “We are a decent nation that follows processes. If this facilitator-led process can help to resolve the dispute, we agreed,” Rodolfo said.

    The Philippines had to resort to retaliation after repeated failure by Thailand to comply with the WTO ruling to fix  its tax regime on imported cigarettes. The last attempt to resolve the matter failed due to a stalemate in the appointment of members of the appellate body that hears disputes in the WTO.

    But Rodolfo said the Philippines pushed for a time-bound proceedings so “that at anytime we can trigger the process for this suspension of our concessions against  Thailand.”