Drinks Ireland responds to new drink labelling regulations
Drinks Ireland has said significant international opposition from major trading partners to Ireland’s alcohol labelling legislation remains and must be addressed by government, following confirmation that the Minister for Health has signed labelling regulations into law.
Drinks Ireland said the government must explain why it is doing a solo run on alcohol labels, when the EU is already planning a harmonised approach to health labels and international processes have not concluded.
A notification process to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is ongoing, saw comments and criticism raised by up to 10 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Cuba.
This process is not complete as the labelling regulations will now be raised and discussed at WTO level during the next Technical Barriers to Trade Committee on 21 June.
An EU process last year saw Ireland’s alcohol labels meet significant opposition from 13 EU member states, including France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, 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.
Drinks Ireland said that this opposition from our trading partners needs to be recognised. Ireland is a significant global food and drinks exporter, and this will hurt the reputation of our drinks products in the home market. We constantly challenge measures from other countries that risk disrupting unilateral trade, and in this regard, Drinks Ireland said we cannot afford to be hypocritical as we have been significant beneficiaries of the Single Market.
Last week, a number of Brussels based European organisations representing the spirits, beer and wines sectors 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. Again this process is not complete.
Drinks Ireland also said that the legislation will have a significant negative impact on Irish producers not only reputationally but logistically and in terms of massive additional costs, in particular small breweries and distilleries, at a time when there are already massive external pressure from inflation and other issues.
Cormac Healy, director of drinks Ireland, said: “Unfortunately this is an example of zealotry rather than evidence-based legislation. We would call on Government to urgently address these significant international concerns from the EU and beyond and explain why Ireland is going alone on alcohol labels at a time when harmonised labels are being planned across the EU. The Government have been staunch defenders of the harmonised EU market, but is now clearly 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.”