European spirits producers have welcomed a move by the EU to force the Philippines to cut import tariffs on their products.

The EU is taking the Philippines before a dispute panel at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in order to get import tariffs on spirits reduced.

"The EU has raised the issue with the Philippines repeatedly over the past years without success," said the European Commission late last week.

EU spirits exports to the Philippines halved from EUR37m (US$54m) to EUR18m between 2004 and 2007, following the introduction of new tax rules, said the Commission.

Imported spirits can be charged up to 50 times more tax than local products, according to the European Spirits Organisation (CEPS).

"We hope the Philippines now take the necessary action to reform its tax system and align itself with international trade rules so that European spirits are able to compete in the market," said CEPS director general Jamie Fortescue.

WTO consultations held with the Philippines in Manila in October failed to secure a breakthrough.