WHO postpones meeting on tobacco illicit trade due to Panama concerns

By Luke Barras-hill |

Panama City is expected to hold the rescheduled Third session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products ‘as early as possible in 2024′. Source: marshalgonz/Shutterstock

A crunch meeting on tobacco illicit trading due to take place this month in Panama City will be rescheduled due to the unfolding security situation.

The Third session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP3) to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, aligned to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), was due to take place on 27-30 November at the Panama Convention Centre.

In a statement yesterday, the WHO FCTC confirmed MOP3 had been postponed to 2024 ‘due to the current security situation’ in the country, with sessions expected to be held in Panama ‘as early as possible’ pending confirmed dates.

The statement adds that the Convention Secretariat would continue to support the parties to the protocol, an international treaty obliging them to take measures to prevent and eliminate all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products.

The DF&TR industry had expected Article 13.2 of the Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP) that calls for an evidence-based research study ‘to ascertain the extent of illicit trade in tobacco products related to the sale of such products’ to have been considered at the meeting, and the study given the go-ahead.

That claim has been repeatedly and robustly condemned and rebutted as an unsubstantiated and damaging allegation against a tightly controlled and regulated trading channel.

Sarah Branquinho, President, Duty Free World Council.

Reacting to the announcement, Duty Free World Council President Sarah Branquinho stated: “The Duty Free World Council notes the decision of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat to postpone MOP3 due to the current security situation in Panama.

While we await a date for MOP3 to be rescheduled the duty-free industry will continue to use all available time to rebut inaccurate allegations that our industry is a material contributor to illicit trade and reiterate our offer to provide expertise and sector-specific knowledge to the anticipated study required under Article 13.2 of the Illicit Trade Protocol.

We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the security and transparency of our supply chain in the study and remain confident that an objective and fairly run study will clearly show that these allegations are baseless.

Meanwhile, we will continue to work closely and constructively with customs organisations and enforcement agencies around the world, as we have done for decades.”

Local, national and international press are widely reporting on protests in Panama that have sparked civil unrest due to tensions over a government-approved mining contract.

To read more about the tobacco illicit trade protocol and its implications for DF&TR, watch out for the TRBusiness November/December edition, available digitally and in print at the upcoming MEADFA Conference in Accra, Ghana.

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