The Philippines and Thailand signed a bilateral understanding on agreed procedures to resolve the decade-long trade dispute involving Philippine exports of cigarettes to Thailand.
The World Trade Organization facilitated the June 7 meeting on the comprehensive settlement of the dispute in Thailand-Customs and Fiscal Measures on Cigarettes from the Philippines (DS 371).
Both parties said in a joint statement the procedure should be consistent with relevant bilateral treaties, ASEAN treaties and values, WTO law and agreements, including the Customs Valuation Agreement, WTO Dispute Settlement Body Rulings and Recommendations and domestic laws and regulations.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez commended both parties for successful conclusion of the WTO facilitator-assisted process to resolve the trade dispute.
“This bilateral understanding shows the good faith and strong commitment among ASEAN partners to resolve their differences and support the WTO’s rules-based dispute settlement system. Thailand and its agencies of government including its judicial branch have shown positive progress towards upholding WTO rules and the Customs Valuation Agreement,” Lopez said.
Lopez thanked the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenue for their support throughout the decade-long arbitration.
Lopez said that if not for the ruling of the Thai Appellate Court, the case could have dragged on for another 10 years or more.
The Thai Appellate Court affirmed with finality the acquittal of Philip Morris Thailand employees in a case related to imports of cigarettes from the Philippines, while also reducing civil penalties and other fines that could have discouraged greater trade between the Philippines and Thailand.
The Philippines and Thailand, represented by their permanent representatives to the WTO in Geneva, Ambassador Manuel Teehankee and Ambassador Pimchanok Pitfield, signed the dispute understanding agreement under the WTO’s Customs and Fiscal Measures on Cigarettes from the Philippines (DS 371).
Permanent Representative of Australia to the WTO George Mina facilitated the signing of understanding between the two parties, a process which began in January 2021.
“Throughout the facilitation process, the Philippines and Thailand have actively and constructively engaged in discussions, both in Geneva and through their respective capitals and demonstrates the commitment of the parties to the WTO Dispute Settlement System,” Mina said.
The parties agreed to establish a bilateral consultative mechanism which will serve as a channel for their respective relevant authorities to regularly cooperate and dialog to build further confidence that will support efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement of DS 371.
The signed understanding on agreed procedures confirmed the commitment of both Thailand and the Philippines to continue their close cooperation, particularly through the frank and open dialog process that will be facilitated under the BCM.