Customs Dept. admits breaching WTO rules on Philip Morris cigarette imports

Thailand’s Customs Department has admitted that it did not comply with WTO procedures regarding the import of Philip Morris cigarettes into Thailand from the Philippines from 2001 to 2007.

The Customs Department’s statement, released yesterday, followed a ruling, by the WTO’s panel last Friday, upholding the Philippines’ claim that Thailand violated WTO laws on customs violations. Thailand has now lost three WTO panel proceedings.

The department, however, said the case is not over and Thailand will appeal the case to the Appellate panel for consideration.

Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez last Friday urged Thailand to accept the WTO rulings and implement the customs valuation reforms called for in those rulings.

The decades-old dispute between Thailand and the Philippines was initiated by Manila in 2008 and is still going on because of repeated allegations of under-declaration of the customs value of cigarettes, which are all based on valuation determinations consistently ruled as illegal under WTO rules, according to the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry.

The Thai Customs Department said the WTO’s dispute panel only ruled that Thailand did not comply with customs violation procedures, but did not rule that Philip Morris had under-declared the cigarettes and, hence, Thailand still has the right to submit the ruling by the Compliance Panel to the Appellate body as the case is not yet concluded.

The Customs Department claimed that the price under-declaration had resulted in Thailand losing excise revenue estimated at about 60 billion baht during the period in question.



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