A Question to Ministries of Finance and Customs Departments

5 May 2016

Has your Ministry of Finance and Customs & Excise Department received an invitation to attend the 13th Asia-Pacific Tax Forum to be held in Jakarta 23-25 May? The Forum is an annual event organised by the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC). Chances are, the answer is “Yes” and this is an important alert.

The FCTC Convention Secretariat (FCS) refers to the ITIC as an organisation that works to further the interest of the tobacco industry, having four (4) international tobacco companies on its Board. The FCS has issued two Notes Verbale on Non-Engagement with ITIC to Parties to the WHO-FCTC. These Notes advise Parties not to engage with the ITIC as it works to promote the tobacco industry, and any engagement with ITIC will be damaging to our tobacco control efforts. Below are the links to the Notes Verbale:

4 March 2016: Note Verbale on tobacco industry interference on the tracking and tracing systems (including reference to regional meetings organized by ITIC) 

19 September 2014 Note Verbale on issues related to Article 5.3 and its guidelines (covering the pre-COP6 meeting organized by ITIC)

In May 2015, the World Bank withdrew from ITIC’s 12th Asia-Pacific Tax Forum held in New Delhi, India, following protests from the international public health community. Initially the World Bank agreed to “provide technical contributions” and the “participation costs of several governments”. According to the Times of India report, the World Bank said, “after careful consideration, the Bank has decided not to participate/financially support the event.”

There are several institutions that see the ITIC as a representative of the tobacco industry and have exposed it:

  1. The World Health Organization adopts the same position as the FCS and treats the ITIC as a representative of the tobacco industry.
  2. The University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group’s Tobacco Tactics lists the ITIC under ‘third party techniques’ which the tobacco industry uses.
  3. The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), an international NGO, has also exposed the ITIC as an organization that facilitates the tobacco industry’s access to government officials and uses their workshops, contacts and research to push for tax systems and rates that benefit the industry over public health.
  4. Tax Justice Network has identified the ITIC as a group that champions the tobacco industry’s interests.

 

The Asia-Pacific Tax Forum in Jakarta is less than 3 weeks away. With the exception of Indonesia, the other Asia-Pacific countries who may attend the Tax Forum are Parties to the WHO FCTC and hence are bound by Article 5.3 and its Guidelines.

Since the ITIC also handles broad economic and taxation issues, you may have questions about engaging with the ITIC on non-tobacco tax issues. SEATCA has prepared a short handout identifying some questions and providing clarifications. Contact us if you would like to receive this.

 

Previous ASEAN Tobacco Watch updates can be found here.

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