US versus Thailand: cigarettes
A case brought by the US against Thailand under GATT. The panel report was adopted in 1990.
Thailand Restrictions on the Importation of and Internal Taxes on Cigarettes
Adopted on 7 November 1990. Adopted, pre-WTO, GATT panel reports can be downloaded here.
Under the 1966 Tobacco Act, Thailand prohibited the importation of cigarettes and other tobacco preparations, but authorized the sale of domestic cigarettes; moreover, cigarettes were subject to an excise tax, a business tax and a municipal tax.
The US complained that the import restrictions were inconsistent with GATT Article XI:1, and considered that they were justified neither by Article XI:2(c), nor by Article XX(b). It also argued that the internal taxes were inconsistent with GATT Article III:2.
Thailand argued, inter alia, that the import restrictions were justified under Article XX(b) because the government had adopted measures that could only be effective if cigarette imports were prohibited and because chemicals and other additives contained in US cigarettes might make them more harmful than Thai cigarettes.
The Panel found that the import restrictions were inconsistent with Article XI:1 and not justified under Article X1:2(c). It further concluded that the import restrictions were not necessary within the meaning of Article XX(b). The internal taxes were found to be consistent with Article III:2.