By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

THE World Trade Organization (WTO) suspended consideration of Philippine retaliation against Thailand in a 12-year trade dispute.

The dispute settlement meeting was held on March 5, following delays after Thailand opposed the agenda item.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a mobile message that they will continue to pursue the issue with the WTO.

He said that the trade department will continue to ask the WTO for approval to retaliate against Thailand for non-compliance with a WTO ruling that favored the Philippines.

The Philippines first complained in 2008 of Thailand’s customs valuation of Philippine cigarette exports.

The trade department in November 2019 said it may impose retaliatory measures against Thailand’s automotive exports to the Philippines, including possible tariff or quantitative restrictions.

Following the suspension of the consideration, Mr. Lopez said that he is also open to consulting with the WTO on non-retaliatory measures to settle the dispute.

Thailand in a statement during the dispute settlement meeting said that the Philippine request ignores procedural rules, as it was made outside of the timeframe prescribed by the WTO.

“Thailand does not want the work of the DSB (dispute settlement body), including the adoption of pending reports, and consideration of efforts to unblock the Appellate Body selection process, to be impacted unnecessarily as a result of the Philippines’ unilateral actions.”

Thailand asked the WTO not to authorize the Philippines to suspend its concessions to Thailand during the meeting, and added that the objection stems from concerns about the WTO’s appellate body.

“We also reiterate that the real issue here is the Appellate Body crisis, not any individual dispute. As Thailand stated at the General Council on Tuesday, the Appellate Body crisis has imposed significant challenges on the rules-based system, including with respect to pending disputes,” the statement said.

“The outcome of the pending disputes will be deprived of any credibility if they are driven by the unilateral actions of a single party, in this case the Philippines.”

WTO’s appellate body is currently in crisis, as it was effectively suspended on Dec. 10, 2019 after the United States blocked the appointment of new appellate judges.

The Philippine Mission to the WTO, after Thailand had earlier declined to discuss the ongoing dispute, said that that the Philippines has been following WTO rules, adding that the Thai move was “a transparent attempt by Thailand to prevent the Philippines from exercising its rights.”