Archive for the ‘Legislative’ Category

As this 14th Congress rolls on, FairTrade will be continuing its legislative assignments left hanging from the 13th Congress.

Particular Bills that FairTrade will be pushing are: the anti-smuggling Bill, the trade representative office Bill and the cheaper medicines Bill filed by Legislators Sen. Mar Roxas and Cong. Erin Tañada.

Senate Bill No.101: Law on Patents, Tradenames and Trademarks
Senate Bill No.106: Anti-Smuggling Act of 2007
Senate Bill No.252: Charter of the Philippine Trade Representative Office

House Bill No. 15: Anti-Smuggling Act of 2007
House Bill No. 318: Charter of the Philippine Trade Representative Office

THE Fair Trade Alliance hails the decision of the House of Representatives’ Secretariat recommending the passage of the bill creating the Philippine Trade Representative Office (PTRO). “The PTRO seeks to provide policy coherence and consistency in varied trade talks,” says Wigberto Tañada, Lead Convenor of the Alliance.

As proposed, the PTRO will serve as the single agency responsible for coordinating international, regional and bilateral trade talks as well as holding consultations with the representatives of the basic sectors such as industry, farmers, small businesses, workers and artisans. In the United States, the US Trade Representative overseers all global trade talks based on active consultations with hundreds of industry associations and producer groups in America.

“It’s about time that the Philippine Trade Representative Office be created. This office will remedy the problem of ad-hocism in trade negotiations, which betrays the sad absence of a clear, cohesive and integrated trade and development strategy that the country is pursuing,” Tañada explained.

FairTrade was active in pressing the 13th Congress to pass the Bill creating the Philippine Trade Representative Office. Unfortunately, the last Congress was unable to pass the Bill even if the Bill succeeded in getting wide support from a large bipartisan group of legislators in both Houses.

“This Trade Representative Office, with multisectoral representation, should be mandated to take the lead in Philippine trade negotiations, review trade policies and trade commitments, and identify countries that discriminate against the products of Philippine industries and agriculture,” Tañada said.

The House of Representatives Secretariat – composed of the Congressional Planning and Budget Department (CPBD) and the Committee Affairs Department – has recommended the passage of 18 other measures to promote trade and enable the survive in the global market.

Trade rep office bill tops house unit wish list
Trade rep office urgent, FairTrade said
Industries put act together; trade rep’s office pushed
RP needs trade czar with Cabinet rank, says solon

The creation of the Philippine Trade Representative Office, which will serve as the single agency responsible for international trade negotiations tops the House of Representatives Secretariat’s recommendation for passage this coming 14th Congress.

In a report by Alexis Romero of BusinessWorld:

Noting weak investment flows as well as the country’s low competitiveness ranking, the House of Representatives Secretariat – composed of the Congressional Planning and Budget Department (CPBD) and the Committee Affairs Department – has recommended the passage of 18 measures to promote trade and to enable the Philippines to thrive in the global market.

The list, to be part of a report to be presented to the 14th Congress which will convene later this month, includes bills that were bypassed by the preceding chamber despite being certified as urgent by the Executive.

Topping the list is the Trade Rep Office Bill. According to the House Secretariat:

“Consolidating the negotiating functions of the DA (Department of Agriculture), DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) will ensure continuity of policies and positions despite changes in the administration,

More importantly, it will be tasked to coordinate efforts of implementing agencies to enable the Philippines to meet global trading standards.”

FairTrade has been pushing the government for the creation of the Philippine Trade Representative Office as early as the 13th Congress to strategize and synchronize the country’s trade policies and negotiations.

According to FairTrade, this Trade Representative Office, with multisectoral representation, should be mandated to take the lead in Philippine trade negotiations, review trade policies and trade commitments, and identify countries that discriminate against Philippine goods.

Unfortunately the Trade Representative Office Bill failed to pass the legislative hurdle at the 13th Congress.

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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.

By Philip Tubeza
Published on the September 24, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

WITH rapid globalization, the Philippines should have a special office dedicated entirely to looking after the country’s international trade policy and trading relations, said a top House leader.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte urged the government to create an office of Chief Trade Negotiator, with Cabinet rank, as trade issues were far too important to be left to “ad hoc negotiators.”

“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 said.

Villafuerte 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.

“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.

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

The US trade representative coordinates trade policy, resolves disagreements and frames issues for the White House and serves as the US President’s principal trade advisor, negotiator and spokesperson.

“Over the years, the US Trade Representative’s 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, who chairs the House committee on fisheries and aquaculture, has been pushing for greater access of Philippine tuna in world markets.

The Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) group has also bewailed the Philippines’ lack of preparedness in bargaining on international trade issues.

By Max V. de Leon
Published on Page A1 of the September 6, 2006 issue of the BusinessMirror

CONCERNED that they are now being left out by their foreign counterparts, Filipino businessmen have taken the initiative to bring together all stakeholders under one roof and craft what they call the Philippine free-trade roadmap.

Benigno N. Ricafort, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (CCP), said the roadmap will “maximize the convergence and minimize the divergence” in business advocacies of different industries and sectors in the country on matters of forging bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs).

CCP president Melito Salazar Jr. said the different industries are right now presenting their cases according to their individual advocacies—one reason why the Philippines is being left out by its neighbors in forging FTAs.

“The business sector is struggling to survive because we don’t have access to markets that other countries have,” Salazar said.

In a separate forum, a former trade secretary made a similar pitch for better coordination as a means to solidify the position of Philippine industries in global trade negotiations.

In a keynote speech at a forum of the Fair Trade Alliance, Sen. Mar Roxas pushed for the creation of a Philippine Trade Representative Office (PTRO).

“Right now, it’s hard to spell out our [trade] direction—it is sporadic, opportunistic, and lacking coherence,” said Roxas at the forum cosponsored by the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc.

The chairman of both the trade and economic affairs committees of the Senate said the creation of a PTRO will pave the way for a “more institutionalized approach” to trade negotiations, rather than a “personalistic approach” that depends just on who is the trade or agriculture secretary at the time.

Roxas as trade secretary from 2001 to 2004 had sat in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha and Cancun ministerial meetings as the Philippines’ chief negotiator.

Separate agencies at present handle trade negotiations in both multilateral (i.e. WTO) and bilateral (individual and regional FTAs) levels. Key figures are the DTI chief, the DA and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Policymaking is done by the Tariff and Related Matters Committee under the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

At the CCP forum, meanwhile, Salazar said local industries are losing their competitiveness because they are not getting the concessions their counterparts in other economies are getting because of the FTAs their governments have forged.

Ricafort said the situation indicates the need for a coordinated and cohesive charting of a roadmap by all stakeholders, and this is why CCP launched the series of forum-workshops to gather all these people.

“The CCP forum for key groups is precisely aimed at consolidating inputs that can be considered by the Philippine trade officials involved in trade negotiations,” he said.

Ramon Kabigting, director of the Bureau of International Trade Relations, admitted that while the local trade policymaking body composed of different agencies could not put their acts together, the Philippines’ neighbors are already making substantial progress on FTAs.

Singapore and Thailand have separate FTAs with the South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Australia and the US, apart from the regional FTAs that Asean as a whole is negotiating.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Edsel Custodio said through FTAs, the market access can be enlarged, tariffs on certain products reduced, and movement of goods, capital, investments and people will be freer.

Donald Dee, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noted that while the country is part of negotiations for regional FTAs, the government has not taken any significant step toward bilateralism. With B. Fernandez

THE creation of a Trade Representative Office to strategize and synchronize trade policies and negotiations is urgent, said the multisectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade), a broad coalition pushing for trade and economic reforms.

FairTrade is pushing for the early passage of HB 4798 and SB 234 creating the Philippine Trade Representative Office. It will also put in place coherence and closer coordination with local producers in the formulation of the country’s trade negotiating strategy.

According to FairTrade, this Trade Representative Office, with multisectoral representation, should be mandated to take the lead in Philippine trade negotiations, review trade policies and trade commitments, and identify countries that discriminate against Philippine goods.

Wigberto E. Tañada, lead convenor of FairTrade said, “The creation of the Philippine Trade Representative Office should remedy the problem of ad-hocism on trade negotiations and the lack of a clear, cohesive and integrated trade and development strategy.”

In order to insure that the interests of local industry and agriculture are represented in the Trade Representative Office, the proposed Office shall have representatives from these sectors and shall be required to conduct regular consultations and reporting, including the holding of policy workshops with industry and agriculture. The proposed Trade Representative Office should also have oversight powers over the jobs of trade and agricultural attaches posted overseas.

The importance of having a single trade coordination office is made more urgent by the multiplicity of global, regional and bilateral trade negotiations facing the country today.

FairTrade cited one aberration in the present trade negotiation system, the reliance on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 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, Tañada explained.

FairTrade 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.

By Ronnel W. Domingo
Published in the August 2, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

A GROUP OF FAIR TRADE ADVOCATES yesterday renewed calls for the creation of a Trade Representative’s office, saying this would unify trade negotiation functions currently spread over various agencies.

“Right now agencies like the departments of foreign affairs, trade and industry and agriculture, as well as the National Economic and Development Authority, all have negotiating authority and all are involved in talks such as those in the World Trade Organization,” said Rene Ofreneo co-convenor of the Fair Trade Alliance.

This makes it hard for [advocates] to air grievances and campaign for certain thrusts regarding trade talks. In the present set up campaigns are done through protests.”

FTA groups nongovernment organizations manufacturers and other inter est groups, like those in the agriculture and fisheries sector.

Ofreneo said the FTA was supporting moves in the House of Representatives for the passage of a law that provides for the creation of the Office of Trade Representative.

He said Representatives Lorenzo R. Tañada III, Ronaldo Zamora and others have already filed a bill regarding the matter.

House Bill No 4798, which was filed late in 2005, has yet to reach third reading in the chamber.

The bill was filed in the wake of the advocates’ failed attempts to compel trade negotiators to disclose the contents of the proposed Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, which paves the way for a free trade pact.

Ofreneo explained that with the creation of a Trade Representative’s Office, the government would be establishing a single body that would be responsible, accountable and transparent while strengthening the Philippine position in negotiations.

“It’s like the American Trade Representative or the European Union’s Trade Commissioner—they provide a strong, unified position despite a wide range of interests being represented,” he said.

Ofreneo said the need for such an office became more urgent after the collapse of the WTO Doha Development Round when officials of six leading economies failed to come up with an agreement regarding market access and export subsidies.

In a prepared statement, FTA said the WTO talks failed because rich countries insisted on opening up the markets of developing countries without reducing or phasing out their own subsidies to agricultural exporters non tariff barriers to trade and their monopoly of technology.”

The group said that the Philippine government needs to correct the “past mistakes of liberalization,” and work with other developing countries in pushing for reforms in the global trading system.




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  • Founded in 2001, the Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) of the Philippines is a broad multisectoral coalition of formal and informal labor, industry, agriculture, NGOs and youth pushing for trade and economic reforms.
  • FairTrade seeks to promote a job-full and progressive Philippine economy through: (1) the promotion of fair trade rules and active agro-industrial policies based on the existing development needs of the nation, (2) the development of a positive agro-industrial culture to foster innovation, hard work and solidarity between and among the productive sectors of Philippine society, and (3) the transformation of an economy debased and stunted by colonial mentality, unequal trade and neo-liberal dogma into a modern, sustainable and broad-based.
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