International concern over Alcohol Bill

The US and Mexican governments have been but two of a number of foreign governments that have contacted the World Trade Organisation with concerns over Ireland’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill’s proposals.

In addition to 11 EU states, the US Government has told the WTO while the US applauds Ireland in its quest to protect public health with regard to excessive alcohol consumption, it would like Ireland to provide more information on the website as to what’s to be included on the label.

The US government would like to know, for example, what information will be posted, what body will determine the content and what’s the process for vetting the scientific soundness of that information?

“As this bill would require a label specifically for the Irish market, will Ireland accept product labelled for other markets in the European Union as part of the common market?” it asked.

Representing 90% of US wine exports, the Californian Wine Institute  also commented on the Bill, stating that if passed as written, the Bill could:

  • Impose requirements for labelling and advertising that would apply only in Ireland creating cost increases and barriers to trade for imported wines
  • Substantially reduce competition for the supply and retail sale of wine in Ireland
  • Taken with all the other proposals, the requirement to conceal alcohol products through physical separation in stores will make it very difficult for any new entrant wines to gain a foothold in the market. This will impact foreign wines disproportionately
  • Place disproportionate obstacles to non-Irish producers wishing to export wines to Ireland, particularly products that are new to the market.

According to the Wine Institute’s submission, “The provisions would require special labelling for Ireland, the result of which is that products would have to be produced and packaged specially for the Irish market. This would introduce a significant trade barrier and prevent free movement at the import and distribution levels. Wine Institute members often bottle and label wines for the entire EU market, including Ireland, in the United States. If Ireland requires an Ireland-specific label with all of the above requirements, the production costs for wine exported to Ireland will increase, significantly reducing the advantages of a single European market”.

The move would also discourage others from entering the Irish market.

The Wine Institute was similarly critical of the proposals contained in Section 20 of the Bill.

“This measure will disproportionally impact small retailers who may stand to lose both alcohol and grocery sales if they are unable to renovate to the requirements in the Bill. In addition, the legislation does not define ‘storage units’ for smaller retailers.

No response has been offered from the Irish Government as yet to the concerns expressed.


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