Strong international opposition to Ireland’s alcohol labelling proposals

May 16, 2023
  • Up to 10 countries including UK and US make comments to the WTO about labels
  • 13 member states including Italy, France and Spain raise concerns to the EU Commission
  • A number of European organisations representing the spirits, beer and wines sectors lodge formal complaints to European Commission
  • Drinks Ireland calls on Irish Government to align with EU wide harmonised labelling plans

A growing number of Ireland’s major trading partners have raised concerns about Ireland’s proposed alcohol labelling plans to the World Trade Organisation, it has emerged, with Drinks Ireland calling on the Government to align with the EU’s plans to introduce labels across member states.

A 90-day notification process to the WTO concluded last week and comments and criticism were raised by up to 10 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Cuba.

The Irish draft regulations will now be raised and discussed at WTO level during the next Technical Barriers to Trade Committee on 21 June.

This comes after an EU process last year where the Irish alcohol labelling proposals also met with significant opposition from EU member states, principally on the grounds that it is trade distorting within the EU Single Market and undermines a planned harmonised EU approach on health warning labels on alcohol.

Thirteen member state governments formally objected to or lodged comments expressing concerns with the Irish proposed legislation under the TRIS process including France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Now a number of Brussels based European organisations representing the spirits, beer and wines sectors have lodged formal complaints asking the European Commission to open an infringement procedure against Ireland for breaching EU law. They call out the Irish proposals as a disproportionate trade barrier, undermining the Single Market and that other less trade disruptive approaches can and should be taken.

Cormac Healy, Director of Drinks Ireland, said, “There are very serious concerns from Ireland’s trading partners across the EU and beyond to the proposed alcohol labels due to their trade distorting nature and the fact that Ireland is going it alone when harmonised labels are being planned across the EU. The Government have been staunch defenders of the harmonised EU market, but now these proposals are causing unnecessary tensions with important trading partners. We do not need two labelling systems. The logic remains that Ireland works with the EU on its plans for a harmonised approach.”


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