PH slams Thailand’s sly trick in tax case before WTO
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) accused Thailand of hampering the Philippines from exercising its right to retaliate against Bangkok, as the latter had for years refused to acknowledge that Manila had won a longstanding trade dispute involving cigarettes.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) was supposed to discuss the Philippines’ request to impose tariffs against Thailand’s largest exports to the Philippines. The DTI said, however, Thailand had blocked the meeting from even happening as it took advantage of the prevailing uncertainty in the WTO.
The dispute stemmed from a 2007 case that the Philippines lodged at the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), the highest body in the WTO in charge of dispute management, resolution and decisions. The Philippines had alleged Thailand had unfairly treated imports from Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. in favor of a state-owned cigarette maker.
The Philippines won the case in 2011, including two appeals filed by Thailand in 2016 and 2019. Thailand filed another appeal, but this is currently in limbo. An appellate body hearing the case could not hold a quorum after the Trump administration refused to appoint new judges there.
According to news portal World Trade Online, Thailand supposedly told the DSB it should not allow the Philippines from making a case for the new tariffs since its appeal on the original issue had yet to be resolved.
“We are confident the WTO and its members will see through this underhanded attempt to prevent [us from exercising] our right, by blocking even the very WTO meeting where this would have been discussed,” said Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo in a statement on Monday.
“In a rules-based environment, those who break the rules [but] go unpunished, derive the most benefits—at the expense of those who diligently abide by the rules,” he said.
Rodolfo, who is also Philippine WTO chief negotiator, urged the WTO to prove the system was not working against countries that actually followed the rules.
“This is an opportunity for the WTO to reassert its relevance and decisively prove that it is an institution that protects the rights of those who follow the rules. The Philippines has and will exercise its rights and uphold the interests of Filipinos and of Philippine-based enterprises; and in the process, demonstrate that the WTO works,” he said.