Office of trade negotiator proposed

The government should establish a special new office that would be entirely responsible for the country’s international trade policy, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte said.

“Due to rapid globalization, it has become absolutely imperative for us to invest in a permanent office that would concentrate solely on building up our trade negotiations and resolving (trade) disagreements with other countries,” Villafuerte said.

“We should aggressively use trade policy to purposely open new foreign markets for our products and services, and to create new opportunities for our industries as well as higher living standards for our farmers, fishermen and workers,” he pointed out.

He said trade issues are far too important to be assigned to ad hoc negotiators. “Depending on how the issues are resolved, we may end up needlessly jeopardizing domestic industries and possibly throwing thousands of workers out of their jobs,” he warned.

He said the new office should draw up and execute a comprehensive, suitable and consistent trade policy in dealing with bilateral, regional and multilateral trade issues.

The new office could be patterned after the Office of the US Trade Representative, which is headed by an official with the rank of Cabinet secretary, Villafuerte said.

The US Trade Representative coordinates trade policy, resolves disagreements and frames issues for The White House. The Trade Representative serves as the US presidents principal trade advisor, negotiator and spokesperson.

“Over the years, the US trade representatives office has developed institutional expertise. It even has a chief agricultural negotiator and commodity specialists who haggle and enforce agreements relating to US farm interests and products,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte is chairman of the House committee on fisheries and aquacutlure, and has been batting for greater Philippine tuna access to the world markets.

The Fair Trade Alliance previously bewailed the countrys lack of adequate preparedness in bargaining.

“Globalization is war. Trade is war. Those who win are those with a coherent program of readiness, a clear strategy on how to wage the trade battles, and whose army is united, armed and fully trained to win the war,” the alliance, headed by former senator Wigberto Tañada, said.

The 106-year-old Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Foundation earlier also lamented governments lack of technical expertise in using new as well as existing trade pacts to the countrys best advantage and full benefit.

Villafuerte agreed, saying: “We definitely could use a more thoughtful approach to trade negotiations and to dispute resolution, and having one office to deal with the issues would surely help.”

He cited the case of Japans nine-year-old ban against Philippine smoked tuna, which remains unresolved up to now, even after the two countries concluded a new economic partnership agreement.

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