spiritsNEWS July 2023

spiritsEUROPE trade mission to Malaysia and Thailand

spiritsEUROPE embarked on a trade mission to Malaysia and Thailand on the occasion of an EU export promotion seminar in Bangkok, from 6 to 9 June. The visit was particularly timely in light of the recent EU & Thailand decision to restart negotiations on a free trade agreement.

Our trade mission started in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where we had constructive discussions with the food safety and quality division of Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, the EU Delegation to Malaysia, the Alliance Against Counterfeit Spirits and EuroCham Malaysia. With exports of a value of almost €60 million in 2022, Malaysia remains an important market for EU spirits – our 20th globally – particularly for wine-based spirits such as Cognac. An FTA with Malaysia would allow us to address the high import tariffs that apply to our products, levelling the playing field with our colleagues and competitors who already benefit from substantial tariff reductions – not least through CPTPP. It would also provide a platform for regulatory dialogue, notably on lot codes protection, spirits standards and the fight against illicit trade – which represents 39% of overall alcohol consumption.

Our mission continued in Bangkok, with a very rich EU export promotion seminar organised by DG AGRI, which covered important issues such as EU & Thailand priorities for agri-food products in the forthcoming trade negotiations, sustainable food systems and traceability, to name but a few. The seminar helped us showcase our great EU spirits GIs, which embody world-class quality, safety, sustainability, and authenticity. In this respect, we were pleased to contribute to a session on geographical indications, where we could share recommendations to further reinforce the protection of GIs in Thailand. We were also honoured to take part in a dedicated session on alcoholic beverages, where we showcased the robustness of EU standards, the richness of our traditions and heritage and our activities in terms of sustainability and responsible drinking – and Europe and in Thailand. We also presented our priorities for the EU-Thailand FTA negotiations, namely:

  • The need to address high import duties & discriminatory taxation (building on positive developments from the 2017 Thai excise act)
  • Regulatory cooperation, which can be a solution to simplify & reduce analysis & certificates requirements
  • Disciplines on labelling & sharing of best practices, which could lead to tangible improvements
  • Protection of GIs & cooperation on fighting illicit trade are essential to ensure consumers have access to high-quality products & are not put at risk or misled 
  • Discussions on the benefits of allowing e-commerce of alcoholic beverages & potential safeguards could open up new opportunities for both sides

The mission ended on a high note, with a seminar on illicit trade in the ASEAN region organised by TRACIT & the EU-ASEAN Business Council, with the support of APISWA. This seminar helped place this critical topic under the spotlight and triggered a discussion on what can be done to tackle the problem in the ASEAN region which involved government officials and industry representatives alike. In Thailand alone, fiscal losses stemming from illicit alcohol represent on average $83 million a year – the equivalent of the yearly average local salaries of 6,200 nurses and 4,700 teachers. This, and the health and consumer safety dangers stemming from illicit alcohol are reasons enough to consider the fight against illicit alcohol as a priority – and a priority which can best be tackled through both international and private-public partnerships.

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