Ka Bobby on WTO DG Pascal Lamy’s visit to the Philippines

After almost 12 years of WTO, after nearly six years of talks in this so-called Doha Development Round (DDR), many of us in the civil society continue to be very wary and critical of the WTO. During this long period – WTO has failed to convince developed countries to correct the huge imbalances, unfairness and inequalities in the existing trade rules and WTO Agreements.

It seems now you may be bringing some good news. We certainly hope so. The Philippines certainly cannot continue to be in the losing and suffering end.

WTO must make trade fair and just for developing countries.

WTO must make trade work more for developing countries.

So many promises have been made… promises… promises.

You say the developed countries have agreed to completely eliminate export subsidies. This sounds good. How will this be done? When?

You say domestic trade-distorting subsidies will be seriously cut and tariffs on agricultural products will be slashed by developed countries? How will this be done and when? How about their existing tariff peaks and tariff escalation? How about their dumping? How about their unfair use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures?

In return, developed countries are asking the developing countries to give in and accept their proposals for more and more market access in agriculture, industry and services, to conclude this so-called Doha Development Round.

It appears that the Developed Countries are still reducing trade and development to a question of more and more liberalization.

For developing countries in general, and the civil society movement in particular, the real issue is and remains to be how the WTO can adopt a genuine development round, that puts the “needs and interests” of developing countries “at the heart” of WTO’s work programme, to fulfill the lofty promises of the Doha Development Round.

A liberalization agenda is not the same as a development agenda. In fact, a one-sided, accelerated type of liberalization such as what the Philippines adopted from the 1980s to the present greatly damaged its domestic industry, domestic agriculture, domestic capacities and domestic jobs.

That is why we are asking that a DDR development agenda should give full recognition to the demand of developing countries for maximum flexibilities, such as Special Products (SP) and Special Safeguard Mechanisms (SSMs) for agriculture.

That is why we are questioning the appropriateness of the so-called Swiss formula in industry, which seeks to further reduce tariffs of both developed and developing countries into one convergence band.

For the Philippines which reduced its tariffs way way ahead of many developing countries, and this autonomous liberalization should be recognized and credited, a Swiss formula of less than 35 percent coefficient will do great damage to many domestic manufacturing industries.

The reality is that there is no level playing field in the existing global trade regime. The reality is that not all countries are equal and that we are at different levels of development, capacities and priorities.

A one size fits all narrow liberalization program under the DDR is a non-solution to the deadlock in the DDR talks. It will not solve the endemic problems of poverty and unemployment in many developing countries. It will worsen them as we are seeing now.

So Mr. Lamy, convince the developed countries to accept the development agenda being proposed by the developing countries and the civil society movement, and don’t let them just focus on market access. Convince them also to finally operationalize and implement the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) provision which permeates the Doha declaration text. According to UNDP, there are at least 155 S&DT provisions or references in various agreements under the WTO such as AoA, NAMA, GATS and so on.

So why is S&DT still not being implemented?

We know this will take some doing and this is a tall order. We hope though that it does not take too long, for in the long run we may all be dead.

Good luck Mr. Lamy. Thank you very much.

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Reaction of Ka Bobby Tañada to the speech of World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy at the New World Renaissance, February 19, 2007.

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