Govt urged to protect agri, industrial sectors

By Elaine Ruzul S. Ramos
Published on the July 22, 2005 issue of the Manila Standard TODAY

The Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) yesterday urged the government to take a more decisive action in safeguarding the interests of Philippine agriculture and industrial sectors in world trade negotiations.

After a two-day conference, the group came up with resolutions, including discarding trade liberalism and replacing this with a more pragmatic, more balanced and more pro-Filipino approach to trade and development issues.

It called on government to effectively stop smuggling and recalibrate tariffs.

Philippine tariff rates are among the lowest in Asia and the developing world. The situation is aggravated further by dumping and by widespread smuggling, both outright and technical.

It wants government to come up with an immediate, fair and just resolution of the fiscal and debt crisis.

“At present, government’s attempts to solve the fiscal and debt problems had only resulted in crippling agriculture and industry sectors from taking off and making headway towards becoming globally competitive,” it said.

FTA is urging government to assert Philippine development priorities in trade talks.

“The Philippines can no longer afford to remain naive by embracing trade liberalization agreements without any clear development framework or measurement of pros and cons and how to’s in every agreement.”

It also prescribed a rebuilding of the nation’s industrial base.

“No nation can be strong with a weak industrial base, which owes itself to three decades of neo-liberal policies,” the group said.

“The lack of a profarmer sustainable development strategy imperils the nation’s food and raw material security as well as the well-being of farmers and the rural population.”

FTA lead convenor Wigberto Tañada is alarmed over recent indications that point toward government’s continued lack of concern or understanding over the real issues that affect the basic foundations of the economy-local agriculture and industry sectors.

Tañada also expressed concern over the recent proposals to further open the economy by “modernizing” the Constitution and deleting the few nationalist provisions of the charter, claiming that these provisions were the “cause of our economic backwardness.”

“The problem is not the Constitution but the failure to respect and implement it. And yet, they are silent on the fact that the new tiger economies of Asia — China, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam — all continue to have more protectionist laws,” the former senator added.

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