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DTI to meet with Thai trade execs before imposing new tax measures on exports

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Wednesday said the Philippines will first have discussions with trade representatives from Thailand before it imposes new tax measures on automotive exports from the foreign country.

In a press conference in Makati City, Lopez said he will have to meet with trade representatives from Thailand before the Philippines places measures on Thai exports.

"We just have to take it step by step because they are still considered part of the ASEAN brotherhood or trade partners, so there are steps," he told reporters.

His remarks come after a Thailand court last week found Philip Morris Thailand guilty of evading taxes by under-declaring the value of cigarettes it imported from the Philippines.

The case has since triggered trade discussions between Thailand and the Philippines, which claimed that import tariffs were unfairly used to give advantage to state-operated Thailand Tobacco Monopoly.

The Philippines won a ruling from the World Trade Organization (WTO), noting that the Thailand measures were unfair and were not in accordance with the WTO rules.

Under the WTO dispute settlement system, member countries may impose countermeasures against a WTO member for non-compliance with the group's ruling.

According to Lopez, while the Philippines is now considering slapping tariffs on Thai exports to the Philippines, discussions with his trade counterparts still have to be made first.

"This is something that we can take up with them, especially with the Deputy Prime Minister during my next meeting with him in the next ASEAN [meeting] siguro," he said.

"I'll also personally have a letter to him with what we wish to do, how we can move forward in the matter basically, and find ways on how we can protect also the interest of the Philippines and for them to comply with the WTO ruling," explained Lopez.

Moving forward, Lopez said the Philippines is looking at imposing tax measures on Thailand exports to the Philippines such as automotives, which make up the largest chunk.

"It will not be a cigarette product basically, but a product that will be meaningful," he said. — BM, GMA News