Alcohol tax unaffected by agreement: Govt

The Government believes any future rise in excise tax on alcohol can be made without concerns about legal action from overseas liquor companies.

The editorial in the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal called on the Government to raise taxes on alcohol now - both as a public safety measure and because of fears that pending new free-trade agreements would leave the Government liable for litigation from foreign alcohol manufacturers.

The Government is expected to sign the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.

Its predecessor, the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, prevented alcohol regulation without the risk of court action, the editorial's author, Prof Jennie Connor, of Dunedin, said.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker said excise tax could be altered, as long as any change applied to all producers.

''None of New Zealand's trade agreements, including the CPTPP, prevent the Government from raising excise taxes on alcoholic products, provided 'like' domestic and imported products are treated the same,'' the spokesman said.

''So, for instance, if there's a tax on beer in New Zealand it has to be applied at the same rates to locally produced beer as to imported beer.''

Prof Connor called for raising the tax on alcohol as price was a proven way of reducing drinking.

However, the Brewers Guild yesterday disagreed, saying sales taxes were not an effective means of promoting safer drinking habits.

''Countries overseas such as the United States give craft brewers (who tend to brew higher ABV [alcohol by volume] beers than mainstream brewers) excise breaks based around litreage produced,'' guild executive officer Cathrine van Venrooy said.

''If there was firm evidence that sales tax promoted safer drinking habits, this would not be the case.''

Changing drinking habits meant consumers were spending more on interesting and quality beer than sheer volume, she said.

''This is resulting in consumers drinking less, hence the declining litreage of beer sold in New Zealand each year, but the increasing sales of craft beer versus mainstream beer.''

Various health organisations, including the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, the Nurses Organisation and the Medical Association, have called for a health assessment of the CPTPP.

Mr Parker's spokesman said once the agreement was finalised a national interest analysis (NIA) would be released.

''The NIA will include, amongst other things, an assessment of the social, cultural and environmental effects of the CPTPP on New Zealanders.''


One of the reasons that people drink great quantities of alcoholic beverages is "stress". In high stress environments people used alcohol as a sedative. One strangely perverse chain of events is to create an unhealthy mental or physical condition and the same category of people creating a so-called "cure". Thereby they can maintain a business by maintaining the problematic causes.