GENEVA, April 8 The Philippines blocked on
Thursday a U.S. request for a World Trade Organisation panel to
investigate its alcohol taxes that Washington says discriminate
against Jack Daniel's, Jim Beam and other American brands.
WTO rules allow countries to turn down an initial panel
request to give more time for talks to resolve disputes. "The
Phlippines blocked the establishment of a panel," a source
familiar with the closed-door Dispute Settlement Board meeting
said. "The panel was therefore not established."
The United States has argued that Manila taxes alcoholic
products such as whiskey, brandy, gin, vodka and tequila made
from domestic materials, such as sugar or palm, at much lower
rates than imported spirits made from different materials.
But the Philippines says its excise tax system is consistent
with WTO principles, and does not discriminate between imported
and domestic products as Washington argues.
The United States is one of the largest exporters of
distilled spirits, with worldwide exports averaging more than $1
billion per year from 2006 through 2008.
Victory in the WTO case could help U.S. producers such as
Brown-Forman (BFb.N) and Fortune Brands FO.N break into the $3
billion Philippine spirits market. Kentucky-based Brown-Forman
owns the Jack Daniel's brand and Fortune Brands, headquartered
in Illinois, produces Jim Beam whiskey.
Under WTO rules, a dispute settlement panel is automatically
set up after a second request.
(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and