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PHL accepts mediated process to resolve Thai trade dispute

THE PHILIPPINES agreed to a mediated process to resolve a 13-year trade dispute with Thailand.

The Philippines first complained in 2008 of Thailand’s customs valuation of Philippine cigarette exports. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has since ruled in favor of the Philippines.

The Trade department has been requesting authorization from the WTO to suspend tariff concessions on Thai exports to the Philippines, in retaliation against Thailand for non-compliance with the international organization’s ruling. The Philippines has initiated domestic procedures, with the Tariff Commission in January conducting a public hearing in which it presented 112 proposed product lines on which concessions could be suspended.

In a news conference Thursday, Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said that the Philippines agreed to a time-bound process in Geneva to come up with a “comprehensive solution.”

Gusto natin time-bound ‘yun. (We want a time limit on talks) After a specific date, tama na (it should end). Kung wala pa rin (If there is no result), we go back to the dispute settlement body. We have to make sure that Thailand understands that at any time, we can trigger the process for suspension of concessions. Kaya domestic process, tumatakbo na (that is why our domestic process is moving forward,” he said.

“The Philippines remains ready, following WTO rules and procedures, to initiate the process for suspension of concessions. In particular the domestic processes for this — for instance the Tariff Commission had already undertaken public consultations on the coverage of products or tariff lines which may be subject to a suspension of concessions should a need arise.”

Any point of engagement with Thailand on this matter will be considered progress, Mr. Rodolfo said.

“It’s important that we maintain a credible and realistic threat to trigger a WTO-rules compliant suspension of concession, because that is important for us to be able to forge a comprehensive solution, for example through the facilitator-led process.”

Industry representatives from both the Philippines and Thailand during the Tariff Commission’s public hearing appealed against the potential suspension of tariff concessions, warning of regional supply chain disruptions and increased consumer prices in the Philippines. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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