World Trade Organisation

spiritsEUROPE has been a strong and consistent proponent of trade liberalisation for many years, and has aspirations for global free trade in spirit drinks in the longer term.  The sector has been a steadfast supporter of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since its formation in 1995.

spiritsEUROPE is also a founding member of the World Spirits Alliance (WSA), a forum of the global spirits industry.  Within this framework, the European sector participates in a dialogue with officials from key national delegations and the WTO Secretariat in Geneva, aimed at furthering trade liberalisation in world markets.

Trade Facilitation Agreement

In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”.  The TFA represents a significant step in supporting exporting companies and will help reduce burdensome administrative requirements that are part of today’s global trade environment for imports, exports or good in transit.  In particular, we believe it will speed up customs procedures, provide greater efficiency and transparency, and encourage the best use of technology.  Experts believe the implementation of the TFA will likely reduce global trade costs by 10-15%.

The TFA should help us in emerging markets, where we tend to encounter more problems, including customs valuation disputes, blockages, lack of transparency, inconsistent documentation requirements and clearance delays. 

WTO – Trade facilitation


The WTO is far more than the Doha Round....  Our sector benefits from the day-to-day work of the WTO and its enforcement of the existing international trade rules.  There is a wide range of instruments and standing mechanisms within the WTO agreements, which the EU already uses extensively and to good effect:

  • The TBT and SPS Agreements allow for constructive discussions. 

spiritsEUROPE regularly provides input on the regulatory proposals notified by WTO members.  This allows us to consider proposed regulations that may have an impact on trade at an early stage when amendments can still be introduced and comments taken into account.

  • The Trade Policy Review affords another opportunity for constructive discussions with third countries, going beyond mere tariff issues.  (link to WTO TPRs)

Useful links:


The enforceability of WTO commitments through the dispute settlement mechanism was perhaps the most valuable innovation of the Uruguay Round.  The WTO Dispute Settlement is an important tool in the EU’s fight against unfair trade practices around the world.  Our sector can testify to its effectiveness in very recent years, given successes against Uruguay (tax discrimination), India (discriminatory taxation), Thailand (customs valuation) and the Philippines (tax discrimination).

  • The case of Colombia

In January 2016, we welcomed the decision of the Commission to request a WTO consultation with Colombia which ended by the decision of the Commission in September to open a WTO Panel concerning the country’s discriminatory tax and monopoly systems.  This follows a series of failed attempts to address the taxation system for imported spirits in Colombia and the market-distorting and anti-competitive practices of the spirits monopolies.  This has prevented our companies from benefiting from the Free Trade Agreement that entered into force in 2013. 

“Spirits and wine face a great number of trade barriers. The EU must stick to an offensive agenda in trade negotiations so the sector can benefit fully from agreements on free trade and investment”
MEP Tokia Saïfi Vice-President of the European Parliament’s INTA Committee