EU spirit makers question Thai import charges

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags International trade

The European Spirits Organisation (CEPS) yesterday welcomed moves
by the EU to open talks with the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
over its concerns regarding Thailand's custom charges.

The trade association alleges that sales of their products in the Thai market have been restricted since September 2006, after customs authorities in the country began rejecting tariff values set by Thai importers. The authorities are accused of replacing these values with their own higher estimates. Such an approach to assigning custom charges, which establish tax and duty value on imported products, is in breach of the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement, according to the CEPS. Association director general Jamie Fortescue said that the WTO's intervention in the matter was therefore vital in protecting both importers', consumers' and overall Thai economic interests. "This constitutes not only a trade barrier for one ofThailand's important trading partners (the EU), but also means ultimately fewer imports and thus less revenue for the Thai Exchequer, as well as restricting consumer choice,"​ he stated. "We fully support the EU decision to launch formal talks at the WTO on the Thai customs valuation procedure and hope that Thai policy will be brought into line with WTO requirements at the earliest opportunity."​ Thailand is currently the eighth largest market for EU spirit exports in terms of volume, and eighteenth on a value basis, amounting to 3.4m cases and €72m respectively, according to CEPS figures. The CEPS claims that even before the new rules on custom values came into place, spirits exports were already being negatively affected by high import duties and internal taxes. It says these effects have been compounded by the current rules on import tariffs set by Thai customs authorities. CEPS claims this has resulted in "unjust"​ hikes in the value of import tariffs, with importers facing heavy financial burden as a result. Despite these claims, Thailand's customs authority say on their website that their current valuation system is based on WTO and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) systems as of 1 January 2000. "It enables fair, uniform, and neutral valuation of goods in recognition of commercial reality and prohibits arbitrary or fictitious Customs values,"​ the customs authority stated.

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