New ETRC Senior Counsel issues ITP rallying call

By Andrew Pentol |

Newly appointed European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) Senior Counsel Ricardo Oliveira has likened the current threat to duty free tobacco caused by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP) to a war and believes the DF&TR industry must strive to avoid these ‘unnecessary attacks.’

Speaking during the recent Central & Eastern European Travel Retail Association (CEETRA) online workshop before his new role was officially announced, Oliveira called for ‘coordinated action’ as the WHO tries to eliminate duty free tobacco.

He said: “I am not here to talk about tobacco. I am here to talk about a threat [to duty free tobacco sales] which is very serious for the industry as a whole. Today it could be tobacco. Tomorrow it could be a different category.”

Article 13.2 of the ITP calls for an evidence-based study to assess the extent to which the duty free industry contributes to the illicit trading of tobacco products.

Crucially, the purpose of the study is not to determine ‘if’ DF&TR contributes to illicit tobacco trading, but ‘how’ the industry plays a part in this.

LOOKING BEYOND MOP2

The second WHO Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) to the ITP may be on the horizon — the rescheduled MOP2 is due to take place virtually in November —  but Oliveira is already looking ahead to the third meeting of the parties (MOP3).

Article 13 of the Illicit Trade Protocol calls for an evidence-based study to determine ‘the extent’ to which duty free contributes to illicit trade in relation to tobacco sales.

“We must ensure we influence the direction of the study and grow the reputation of the duty free industry ahead of what will be MOP3.”

“Ahead of the ninth Conference of the Parties, we need to have contingency measures in case any of this crops up.”

On the proposed evidence-based study, Oliveira said: “The premise is that there is an issue and that illicit trade does exist in duty free sales, but we know of course that this is not true and there couldn’t be a more controlled environment than duty free.

The second Meeting of the Parties to the Illicit Trade Protocol will take place in November.

“Illicit trade is serious problem around the world in different supply chains and the big tobacco companies have a lot of controls in place.

“Definitely, when it comes to duty free there couldn’t be a safer environment. It is really a contradiction to be talking about the existence of illicit trade in duty free.

“There is no justification for penalising legitimate law-abiding retailers under a pretext of controlling illicit trade. This is why I am calling this a war.”

The Duty Free World Council has called for ‘effective engagement’ in the build-up to MOP2.

Oliveira, who believes the industry must ensure the study is delayed added: “The study is not consulting experts in the industry and is overly narrow in scope. The conclusions will most likely be inaccurate.

“We have seen that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and WHO tend to work with universities in South Africa, for example, who provide results from studies which support the results they expect to see.

“This is why we need to undertake engagement with the advocacy papers to show this is going the wrong way.”

Referring to tobacco control methods such as track and trace which has already been implemented in some countries and is in the process of being introduced in others, Oliveira said: “There is no point having a study when these measures have not been fully implemented worldwide.

“The study must be carried out when the protocol has been fully implemented and in a fair and objective manner.”

REGIONAL ASSOCIATIONS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Having supplied advocacy material to global travel retailers through ETRC and under the banner of the of the Duty Free World Council, regional associations such as CEETRA are now the focus.

“We need to ensure these engagements take place and the meeting documents are released to the parties of the protocol by August. They will then have to start considering their positions.

“This is why the period between now and August is the crucial time for engagement at regional level.”

New ETRC Senior Counsel Ricardo Oliveira says, “there is no justification for penalising legitimate law-abiding retailers under a pretext of controlling illicit trade.”

On the importance of CEETRA countries in terms of the weight of the decision making at MOP2, Oliveira emphasised that there are parties within the CEETRA region which are signatories to the ITP, but have yet to give ratification.

“They will only have voting rights after they ratify,” Oliveira remarked.

At the time of writing, there were 25 MOP2 parties in Europe, of which 10 were part of CEETRA. “This shows that about 40% of the decision rests on the countries represented within the CEETRA region,” Oliveira concluded.

*All charts courtesy of the European Travel Retail Confederation.

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