Thursday, 23 October 2008 9:09 AM

PICTA - inclusion of alcohol and tobacco

I read with interest the comments by Michel Vavala on Solomon Islands intent wish for the inclusion of alcohol and tobacco in PICTA.

While I recognize the concerns he raised in terms of the contagious nature and the potential ramifictions these products have on the health and livelihoods of peoples, I'm not aware that these are products not included in WTO multilteral trading regime.

Specifically in relation to PICTA, these products' early non-inclusion was for reason that these were sensitive products for nearly all Pacific countries. The sensitivity is for reason that due to the very consequences Mr. Vavala advocated, governments have had to impose high import duties albeit customs taxes/tariffs on these products. In other words, these products, are sources of revenue collection for governments and their inclusion in the liberalisation processes could impinge on the level of revenues collected by revenue collection authorities.

The foregoing is the context of the stand which was announced by Solomon Islands at the Nadi meetings. But one also has to be mindful that multilateral trade rules entertain nondiscrimination under rules such as the most favoured nation (mfn), national treatment and so forth for liberalisation purposes. However, lieu way is there where internal taxes that apply indiscriminately, could be applied on these sensitive products that still render their prices high on shop shelves and thus serving the same purpose of discouraging alcoholism and smoking and the perceived scourges associated with them.

I thank Mr. Vavala for his useful comments but also thought that from a trade negotiators point of view, things also ought to be put into proper perspective.

EDITORS NOTE: H.E Joseph Ma'ahanua is the Solomon Islands Ambassador for the EU based in Brussels.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Joseph Ma'ahanua and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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