New Irish labeling rules set up EU, WTO clashes

Legislation | | MIC Customs Solutions |

Ireland's plans to introduce new labeling requirements on alcohol have caused friction with key trading partners in the EU and elsewhere.

New labeling requirements for alcoholic beverages sold in the Republic of Ireland are likely to lead to disputes at the next World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in June as key exporters to the country raise objections.

From May next year, all beers, wines and spirits sold in the Republic will be required to display comprehensive health warnings, including calorie information and messages about alcohol's links to disease, similar to those seen on cigarettes in many countries. 

It will make Ireland the first territory in the world to impose such requirements. However, it has left many of the nation's trade partners unhappy as it will mean they must undertake additional efforts when exporting to the market.

The Financial Times reports that more than ten countries have already lodged objections to the move with the WTO, including the UK, US, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Cuba. The issue is expected to be on the agenda at the organization's next Technical Barriers to Trade committee meeting on June 21.

What's more, 13 of Ireland's fellow EU member states, including major alcohol exporting nations like France, Spain and Italy, have also complained about the move to the European Commission, while industry groups have called on Brussels to open infringement proceedings against the country.

The EU has stated that the unilateral move is counter to a planned EU-wide approach and could result in trade disruption.

Officials and industry groups across the continent have also expressed dissatisfaction, with French ambassador to Dublin Vincent Guerend telling the Irish Independent recently that it could end small winemakers' exports to the country. 

Meanwhile, Albiera Antinori, president of Marchesi Antinori, one of Italy's largest winemakers, also claimed it undermines the key EU principle of the single market. She told the Financial Times: "The turnover of Italian wine is very small in Ireland, but it’s the principle - you cannot do something like this inside the European Community.

"The issue has to be addressed. They need to find a solution. If not, the whole European idea - which begins in free trade - will be at an end." 

According to figures from Ireland's official statistics authority, the country imported €346 million of wine in 2020, an increase of 44 percent by volume from 2015, with France being the biggest provider. For beer, imports totaled €250 million, with nearly two-thirds of this coming from the UK.