Local industry and agriculture push for one strategic trade office

“GLOBALIZATION is a battle for new markets as well as the preservation of existing markets, both at home and overseas.  How can the Philippines win in this battle if it does not have a coherent trade framework and negotiation strategy?  How can it negotiate well if local industry and agriculture are not involved in the formulation of trade policy measures?” the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA), an alliance of sectoral organizations advocating for economic reforms and fair trade policies said.

In a statement to the media, FTA declared that it is pushing for the early passage of the Trade Representative Office Bill or HB 4798.  Introduced by Representatives Lorenzo R. Tañada III, Ronaldo B. Zamora, Del R. de Guzman, Proceso J. Alcala, Rafael P. Nantes, Danilo E. Suarez, Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, Mario “Mayong” J. Aguja, the bill seeks to put in place coherence and closer coordination with local producers in the formulation of the country’s trade negotiating strategy.

FTA cited one aberration in the present trade negotiation system, the reliance on the Department of Trade and Industry as the lead negotiator in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and bilateral agreements even if offers on the table involve agriculture.   This results in grave mistakes because the DTI is naturally not conversant with issues in agriculture, FTA Executive Director Dr. Rene Ofreneo explained.

FTA further said that a clear trade negotiating framework is sorely missing not only in the WTO but also in the regional and bilateral trade talks.  The bill seeks to establish an office that is responsible for developing and coordinating the country’s international trade, commodity and direct investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries.

“The proposed trade office is not another layer of the bureaucracy, for there is no singular body truly responsible and accountable to the people when it comes to trade negotiations. There is no single office to go in order to understand the government’s stand on numerous trade issues.  Most important of all, there is no authoritative trade office which consults with the Philippine stakeholders – local industrialists, farmers, workers and small and medium entrepreneurs,” Ofreneo added.

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