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EU Requests WTO Panel Over Colombia’s Discrimination Against Imported Spirits

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EU Requests WTO Panel Over Colombia’s Discrimination Against Imported Spirits

EU Requests WTO Panel Over Colombia’s Discrimination Against Imported Spirits
August 25
15:53 2016

The EU has requested the establishment of a WTO panel to rule on a dispute concerning Colombia’s discriminatory treatment of imported spirits. The EU and Colombia held consultations earlier in the year (8-9 March 2016), however consultations failed to reach a solution to the dispute. While the EU recognizes Colombia’s efforts to bring about reform in the spirits’ regime since the initiation of the dispute, EU spirits continue to be discriminated in the Colombian market.

The EU’s concerns about discrimination of EU spirits in the Colombian market are longstanding. EU spirits are subject to higher taxes and local charges than those applied to local brands. In addition, market restrictions apply in the departments or local subdivisions of Colombia. The departments impose market-access restrictions that distort the competitive conditions in the market to the detriment of EU spirits. This is in contravention of Colombia’s non-discrimination obligations under WTO rules.

Under the bilateral Trade Agreement with the European Union, Colombia committed itself to ending the discrimination by 1 August last year. The EU has raised the issue with Colombia on numerous occasions, including in bilateral meetings, WTO meetings and OECD membership discussions. The European Union continues to support Colombia’s efforts to bring about reform in this sector.

The EU is the number one exporter of spirits to the Colombian market and, as a result, the trading partner most affected by these measures (followed by Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States). In 2014, EU exports of spirits to Colombia – valued at €43 million – represented approximately 14% of total agricultural exports to Colombia and 77% of total Colombian imports of spirits. Within the different spirits exported by the EU to Colombia, whiskies represent the highest shared (€36 million) followed by liqueurs and cordials (€4 million). Colombia produces mainly rums and aguardientes, which account for 83% of spirits consumption in Colombia in 2013 figures, in comparison with 2.3 million cases of imported spirits).

The EU’s request for the establishment of a WTO panel will be discussed at the meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of 2 September. If Colombia does not agree to the establishment of a panel at that meeting, the EU may table a second request at the following DSB meeting which, according to WTO rules, Colombia cannot block.

At any stage of dispute settlement procedures, Colombia can reform the spirits’ regime in Colombia and eliminate the discrimination of imported spirits, thereby prompting that a solution is found without necessarily waiting for adjudication by a WTO panel.

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