The Appellate Body, in a public notice, moved the release of its final report from Nov. 22 to Dec. 22 -- almost two months after the Philippines appealed the initial ruling on the dispute with the US and the European Union (EU).
“Due to the time required for completion and translation of the Reports, the Appellate Body will not be able to circulate its Reports by Tuesday, 22 November 2011. We estimate that the Appellate Body Reports in this appeal will be circulated to WTO Members no later than Thursday, 22 December 2011,” the notice read.
Based on the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, the Appellate must provide within 60 days its decision on a contested ruling as recommended by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB).
The Philippines, which delivered its appeal on Sept. 23, questioned the legal interpretation of the DSB which declared the country’s excise taxes on foreign liquor discriminatory and in violation of the organization’s multilateral free-trade rules.
The appeal also contested the body’s own differentiation of foreign and local liquor in terms of their chemical properties, a technical policy area which the Philippines claimed to be beyond the expertise of the DSB.
The initial ruling, if retained by the Appellate, has a potential to open the $3-billion local market to famous competitors such as Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam and Brandy de Jerez, renowned liquor brands from the complainant Western economies.
Sought for comment, Olivia Limpe-Aw, Distilled Spirits Association of the Philippines, Inc. (DSAP) president, said in a telephone interview: “We still do not know what the final decision is but we are expecting a reversal of the ruling. The industry and the Congress are aware of this delay, but all we can do is to hold all hearings.
“At this point, we should be prepared for the decision whether they reverse it or not. But if they do, it means there is no need to restructure our excise taxes,” she added.
Last August, House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. suspended deliberations on all bills amending excise tax laws pending before the House of Representatives’ ways and means committee until the WTO case was concluded.
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