Manila presses cigarette complaint

MANILA - President Benigno Aquino said Wednesday he intends to push the country's trade complaint that Thailand was using unfair taxes to discriminate against cigarettes made in the Philippines.

The Philippines has filed an official complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and "further progress was expected in the coming month", said a statement from the president's office.

The Philippines suit at the WTO alleges that Thailand uses unwarranted valuation measures and the Value-Added Tax (VAT) to push up cigarette prices. The practice makes Philippines brands uncompetitive, and is unfair protectionism for the Thai Tobacco Monopoly, the Philippines says.

The complaint is almost five years old. It began in 2008 when the Philippines first complained to the WTO and Thailand about the tax structure applied to cigarettes made in the Philippines.

The WTO agreed with the Philippines in December of 2010, but Thailand appealed the case in February, 2011.

The two countries supposedly reached an agreement on the case in August, 2011, but the Philippines now claimed that Thailand reneged.

The statement from Mr Aquino's office on Wednesday "welcomed Thailand’s readiness for continued bilateral discussions at the appropriate level," but pledged to continue litigation if talks were not fruitful.

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