The Philippines is pushing the World Trade Organization (WTO) to include in its agenda the country’s intent to impose tariff on vehicle imports from Thailand after Thailand blocked discussions on the case.
The Philippines earlier notified the WTO of its goal of imposing such tariffs in retaliation for Thailand’s failure to comply with a WTO ruling. The ruling upheld Philippine claims that Thailand violated the WTO agreement on customs valuation relating to Philippine exports of cigarettes.
The WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) was supposed to discuss the Philippines’ request on February 28, but Thailand in a communication dated February 26, and published on the WTO website, requested the removal of the discussion from the agenda, saying the Philippine request was “improper” and citing several concerns on the sequencing agreement under the dispute settlement system.
But Thailand said it “remains open to discuss means of resolving this situation ‘that will not affect the other aspects and steps agreed’ between the parties.”
WTO has moved the discussion to March 5.
The Philippines in a communication dated February 27 said it “maintains” its request to include the discussion in the agenda, and is “ready to engage with Thailand on its concerns”.
The Philippines has argued that including its request in the DSB agenda “is fully in accordance with the Philippines’ rights as a Member of the DSB” and with the rules of procedure for meetings of the dispute settlement body.
“What we are fighting for is the relevance of a responsive WTO. This is critical to show the world that countries who follow the rules, are also protected by the WTO,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in separate statement.
A WTO panel on July 12, 2019 upheld claims that Thailand violated the WTO agreement on customs valuation relating to Philippine exports of cigarettes.
Initiated by the Philippines in 2008, the dispute concerns Thailand’s persistent failure to value Philippine exports consistently with the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement (CVA).
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, Thailand has already lost three WTO panel proceedings.
In the original proceedings, a WTO panel and the Appellate Body ruled in 2010 that the Thai customs valuation measures violated the CVA and other WTO rules.
Following this ruling, Thailand brought further new WTO-inconsistent customs valuation measures against Philippine cigarettes and filed criminal charges against Philip Morris Thailand Ltd. for underdeclaration. The Philippines successfully brought a first set of WTO compliance proceedings; in November 2018, the WTO compliance panel found that Thailand’s new customs valuation measures and the first criminal charges violated the CVA.
While these proceedings were ongoing, Thailand issued a second set of criminal charges, forcing the Philippines to initiate second WTO compliance proceedings. This latest WTO panel ruled on July 12, 2019 that the second charges also violated the CVA.
DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo earlier said the Philippines does not import a significant amount of cigarettes and tobacco from Thailand, and so chose automotive instead as Thailand is the Philippines’ number one source of automotive imports.– Roumina Pablo