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27 March 2010

US asks for WTO intervention in liquor dispute with Philippines

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The United States asked the World Trade Organization Friday to intervene in a longstanding dispute with the Philippines over taxes on whiskey and gin, following an impasse in bilateral talks, AFP reported.

The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement that the Philippines had imposed "discriminatory taxes" on imported distilled spirits that were significantly higher than those for domestic distilled spirits.

The USTR wants the WTO to set up a dispute settlement panel to resolve the dispute.

"To ensure that Americans' rights in the global trading system are respected, it is important to move forward with the next step in the WTO dispute settlement process and request the establishment of a panel, which USTR is doing today," USTR spokeswoman Carol Guthrie said.

"It is critical that American exports are treated fairly in the Philippine market in accordance with WTO rules," she added. But Guthrie said the United States remained open to working with the Philippines "to find a mutually agreeable solution to our concerns."

WTO rules generally bar members from discriminating between imported and domestic products in their tax regimes. The US government has raised concerns over the issue with the Philippines in the past several years, both bilaterally and in WTO forums.

In addition, the European Union had requested WTO consultations on these taxes in July 2009, and the United States joined these consultations and participated in meetings between the EU and the Philippines in October.

The first step in a WTO dispute is for both parties to consult formally. If consultations fail, a request has to be made for a WTO panel to be established to resolve the dispute. The United States exports about one billion dollars worth of distilled spirits worldwide annually


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