US authorities have stepped up a dispute with the Philippines over the country's high tariffs on imported spirits.

US trade officials have requested a dispute panel hearing at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in an attempt to force the Philippines to lower the tariffs.

The move follows the failure of a consultation processs between the two parties and mimicks the path taken against the Philippines by the EU late last year.

"Despite US efforts to resolve this issue through consultations, the Philippines continues to maintain its discriminatory tax regime on distilled spirits," said US Trade Representative spokesperson Carol Guthrie.

"To ensure that Americans' rights in the global trading system are respected, it is important to move forward with the next step in the WTO dispute settlement process and request the establishment of a panel."

Spirits imported from the US are taxed between ten and 40 times more than domestically produced spirits, the US alleges. 

WTO rules forbid any member state from taxing imported spirits differently from domestic products.

US spirits exports to the Philippines were valued at $671,000 in calendar 2008, according to trade body the US Distilled Spirits Council. The US exports more than $1bn of spirits globally per year.