October 12, 2016: A new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by the European Chamber Of Commerce Singapore and released today, ranks Australia at the top of Asia Pacific nations when it comes to dealing with the huge international problem of illicit trade.

The Illicit Trade Environment Index scored 17 regional nations in four categories – intellectual property, transparency and trade, customs environment and supply and demand – on their capacity to deal with the criminals, counterfeiters and smugglers involved in the illegal trade of drugs, tobacco, guns, household goods and all other items sold illegally around the world.

The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has welcomed Australia’s number one ranking given the major impact the trade of illicit tobacco has on honest, responsible retailers of legal tobacco products – but emphasised that there’s more to be done.

“As the voice of the retailers and suppliers of Australia’s convenience industry, the AACS is especially concerned with the illicit trade of tobacco, which has an enormous impact on the small businesses in Australia who responsibly retail legal tobacco products,” AACS CEO Jeff Rogut said.

“Recent high profile seizures of contraband tobacco at our shores highlights the enormity of the problem and the fact that, due to the regulatory environment for legal tobacco in Australia, we’ve become one of the most lucrative markets for illicit tobacco in the world.

“Our police and customs officials do a tremendous job of cracking down on illicit products. However, we need to support this good work with proper regulations. Endless excise hikes on legal tobacco play directly into the hands of these gangs and makes the job of our officials so much harder.”

But the impacts of illicit trade on the convenience store supply chain go further than tobacco – jeopardising the quality of other products, threatening suppliers’ and manufacturers’ intellectual property, costing trademark owners and potentially frustrating customers.

The AACS has therefore supported the anti-counterfeit initiative launched today by the Australian Retailers Association, which seeks to mobilise businesses concerned about illicit trade and encourage Government to increase efforts in cracking down on these criminals while protecting businesses who play by the rules.

The initiative would seek to play a similar role to the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) initiative in seeking to unite business groups and associations and generate real change.

“Illicit trade affects the profits of many businesses, both small and large, and it can also mean responsible operators are liable for counterfeit products that manage to infiltrate the supply chain,” Mr Rogut said.

“The AACS has zero tolerance for any person or business which engages in illicit trade and supports any initiative aimed at deterring counterfeiting and penalising criminals involved in black market operations,” he said.