Archive for the ‘WTO’ Category

After a long silence in the WTO headquarters, the draft text of the modalities for Non-agricultural Market Access (NAMA) and Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) are out. Here are the two in .pdf file format:

Draft Modalities for Agriculture
Draft NAMA Modalities

UPDATE: FairTrade Senior Researcher Errol Ramos has an initial observations and reactions to the draft NAMA modalities.

Based on his summary, the salient features of the new NAMA draft are:

For bound tariffs, the Swiss formula is adopted with 2 coefficients (1 for developed and one for developing). Specifically: (1) Between 8-9 for developed; and (2) Between 19-23 for developing.

For unbound tariffs, a 20 percent mark-up will be adopted.

The flexibilities under the para 8 of the NAMA Framework are:

(1) For bound tariffs, 10 percent of the NAMA lines will have lesser cuts. (2) For unbound tariffs, 5 percent of the NAMA lines will be kept unbound.

The new NAMA draft also speaks of having no consensus or little development at all on the:

1. Definition of what full reciprocity is,
2. Sectoral initiatives
3. Other issues like non-tariff barriers, conversion to ad valorem equivalents
4. NAMA environmental goods.
5. Balance of ambition between NAMA and AoA.

His reactions to the draft NAMA text, after the jump:

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Wigberto Tañada, Lead Convenor

We welcome this initiative of the WTO and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) to hold here in Manila this two-day multi-stakeholder dialogue-consultation workshop for the Asia-Pacific region on the WTO trade talks.

As all of us gathered here are aware of, the trade talks under the Doha Development Round (DDR) are on their 7th year. Director General of WTO, Mr. Pascal Lamy, a former Socialist leader of France, has virtually tried everything in the books to break the impasse in the DDR talks – dramatically suspending the talks last year, quietly reviving them early this year, holding official individual meetings with the stubborn members, shepherding a critical few in Davos, and in his own words, swinging back and forth from blustering to bantering. And yes, hopping from one capital to another, in search of the elusive global consensus.

And so last February, Mr. Lamy was here. He met with the business community and a few representatives of the civil society movement. As one of the privileged civil society speakers, I told Mr. Lamy that a large number of people in the Philippines have been wary of the DDR talks. For after 12 years of existence, the WTO has not delivered the promises of more and better jobs for the workers, more and better incomes for the farmers and more and better businesses for our entrepreneurial class. After 12 years of WTO, the Philippines’ poor have become poorer and more numerous, with hunger now affecting one out of every seven Filipinos.

The poor performance of the Philippines under the WTO is apparently replicated in the uneven pattern of development in other developing countries of Asia and elsewhere. This is especially true in agriculture where global imbalances have remained huge and global trade has increasingly tilted against the small farmers of Asia. Thus, the growing number of farmers committing suicides, from Korea to India and Pakistan.

But what must have surprised Mr. Lamy in the Manila forum last February were the blunt statements made by the members of the Philippine business community. They told him frankly and unequivocally – that the global trading system under the WTO is tilted against the poor developing countries, that the giant agricultural subsidies of the North are fueling hunger in the South, that the lower tariffs of the rich developed countries can not make up for the higher protection extended by patent monopolies on technologies, and that the one-size-fits-all liberalization formula is no development formula at all. The WTO and the trade liberalization ideology it has come to represent have no social constituency in the Philippines and many parts of the world.

This is why the DDR talks, focused as they are on more market access opening in agriculture, industry and service sectors, are deadlocked. Advocates of fair and just trade want a correction, not an exacerbation, of global trade imbalances. They demand the universal observance of the principle of special and differential treatment (S&DT), for not all countries are created equal. And not all have the capacities to follow a uniform formula of liberalization. Equal rules for unequal partners often lead to more inequalities and sufferings among the weak and vulnerable.

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By Felipe F. Salvosa, II
Published on the April 27, 2007 issue of BusinessWorld

The Philippines is among three countries with the greatest skepticism on globalization and international trade, a global opinion poll found, with only about half of Filipinos having positive attitudes as against a wider majority in other countries.

The survey of nearly 23,000 respondents in 18 countries, commissioned by an American think-tank, found that a majority of people support economic globalization and freer trade. Respondents, however, said liberalization should come with stricter environmental and labor laws.

“Majorities around the world believe economic globalization and international trade benefit national economies, companies, and consumers. But many think trade harms the environment and threatens jobs and want to mitigate these effects with environmental and labor standards,” the report released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and WorldPublicOpinion.org said.

The section on the Philippines said “Filipinos tend to think globalization is good for their country, though they are among the most skeptical of the publics polled.”

“The Philippine public also divides over whether their government should comply with World Trade Organization rulings,” the report said.

The Social Weather Stations (SWS), among the polling firms commissioned for the global survey, found that although only half of Filipinos think globalization is good, positive attitudes outnumbered negative ones by a margin of 49% to 32%. A fifth of respondents in the SWS survey declined to answer.

Majority of the Filipino respondents, or 55%, think “minimum standards for working conditions” should be part of trade agreements, while 30% believe they should not be required. They were almost equally divided on whether as a general rule, the Philippines should comply with adverse decisions made by the World Trade Organization (WTO): 48% believed the country should and 49% believed otherwise.

The SWS interviewed 1,200 respondents nationwide in the September 24 to November 29, 2006 poll, which had a 2.9% margin of error.

Aside from the Philippines, the “greatest skepticism” about globalization was in Mexico (41% good, 22% bad), and Russia (41% good, 24% bad). In the United States, the report said, 60% thought globalization is mostly good while 35% called it mostly bad.

Rene Ofreneo, executive director of the Fair Trade Alliance, noted that the Philippines, Mexico, and Russia share negative experiences in economic liberalization, resulting in wide public dissatisfaction over policies toward globalization.

The Philippines was the fastest in the region in bringing down tariffs, leading to the decline of many domestic industries which could not withstand competition.

“We are an aggressive liberalizer but look at where we are now,” Mr. Ofreneo said. “Filipinos see it as hopeless.”

Mexico’s corn farmers are also suffering as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the US and Canada, he said, while the maquiladoras (free trade zones) provided only a temporary respite and were eventually beaten by China.

Russia, meanwhile, has been reeling from “shock therapy” imposed by multilateral financial institutions which had recommended a sudden shift to a liberalized economy after the collapse of communist rule, where state monopolies were transferred to oligarchs.

Trade lawyer Jeremy I. Gatdula, for his part, argued that Filipinos enjoy cheaper goods and luxuries such as mobile phones, computers, travel, and education because of globalization.

“It’s interesting that Filipinos register such skepticism when almost everything about a Filipino’s way of life came about due to globalization,” he told BusinessWorld.

Political leaders, he said, are also to blame for the skepticism by using globalization as a scapegoat rather than reforming policies that favor well-entrenched domestic business interests.

The global survey showed that dissent to globalization was strongest in France, with 42% believing that trade liberalization and economic integration had been “mostly bad.”

The highest levels of support for globalization were found in export-oriented economies such as China (87%), South Korea (86%) and Israel (82%).

The findings could “strengthen the political will” for liberalization in arenas like the WTO, said Christopher Whitney, executive director at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

There were more misgivings, however, about the environment with 66% of French respondents and 49% of both American and South Korean ones believing that trade harms the natural world.

Strong majorities in China and India agreed that trade agreements should include environmental protections.

Again, France led the way in expressing fears for trade’s impact on job security, followed by the United States.

The survey interviewed nearly 23,000 respondents in total, drawn from Argentina, Armenia, Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Ukraine and the United States, plus the Palestinian territories. — with a report from AFP

Wigberto E. Tañada, Lead Convenor

Magandang umaga sa ating lahat! A warm welcome to you all, especially to our foreign participants and delegates to this Regional Workshop on Access to Medicines!

This Regional Workshop comes at a most appropriate time. And we thank all the participants and delegates from the different Asian regions for coming together to share their respective experiences in the campaign and the battle for insuring and increasing people’s access to medicines. Indeed shared experiences, shared learning and a shared future are our best teacher and inspiration in this arduous fight against the goliaths of the global pharmaceutical industry.

The WTO’s Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health provide member countries certain crucial flexibilities such as the right of countries to resort to parallel importation in order to lower drug prices, the right of governments to give compulsory licenses for drugs critical in the treatment of diseases affecting a large part of society and the right of governments to engage in the domestic production and timely distribution of drugs whose patents are about to expire. Despite its limitations, the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPs explicitly upholds the rights of governments to enforce measures that will protect public health and insure access to affordable medicines for all especially the poor. Through parallel importation, patented medicines can be purchased from the cheapest source rather than from the patent holder manufacturer. Compulsory licensing on the other hand allows governments to order a local firm to produce a drug and pay a negotiated royalty to the patent holder.

Since this is a gathering of fighters for affordable medicines, I believe we are all familiar with these WTO TRIPs flexibilities. The problem really is how do we counter and overcome the transnational resistance to our exercise of these flexibilities. The bigger challenge is what can our societies do beyond these flexibilities in order to make medicines accessible and affordable for all. As it is, these WTO Doha TRIPs flexibilities are merely on paper and they will remain to be so unless governments are able to summon the will to implement and make use of such flexibilities in the face of the transnational resistance.

In this connection, we, in the Philippines, have experienced last year and this year the reach and power of this transnational resistance. In our effort to avail of these flexibilities, some of our health and trade officials were brought to court by Pfizer on specious grounds, specifically infringement of their patent rights. And in our advocacy and campaign to have these flexibilities reflected in the appropriate amendments to our Intellectual Property Code, the drug transnationals mounted a huge and expensive campaign to stop the approval of these amendments by our Congress and they even tried as well to misrepresent the position of the people fighting for these flexibilities, by raising the bogey of sub-standard and counterfeit medicines flooding the market.

Fortunately, at least for now, we survived the transnational campaign against our own legislative campaign to enshrine and incorporate these flexibilities into our existing IPC. Yes, we are bruised but we are victorious even for a moment, while the other side has been exposed as a selfish corporate lobby seeking to keep drug prices and profits high through their transnational monopoly hold on patents.

But let us not fool ourselves. The battle is not over, the fight has just begun. We have to anticipate the counter-attack of the transnationals in the bicameral deliberations on the proposed amendments. It is a foregone conclusion that they will still try to derail the final approval of said amendments and their enactment into law through various means. And even if they become law, they will not stop, they will continue the fight in the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations. They may even elevate the case to the appellate courts. It will surely be an uphill battle, as we are seeing now and as we have seen in our own Philippine experience with the generics. Through their expensive marketing and media programs, the transnationals have managed to hold back the development of the Philippine generics industry despite a two-decades-old enabling law.

This is why this conference is most important. We want to learn from one another on how to counter this transnational resistance and lobby, how to press governments to remain consistent and how to win the larger public to our side.

This is what we, at the Ayos na Gamot sa Abot-Kayang Presyo (AGAP), an alliance composed of representatives coming from organized groups such as the labor, health, industry, agriculture, and the consumer sectors, have been trying to do. We set up AGAP because we saw the need for a broad multi-sectoral coalition, which includes progressive officials and agencies in government, both in the executive and legislative departments. For the reality is that we can not help change policies and enforce measures that will bring down the prices of medicines in the country if we are badly divided and if we pit one sector against another, which is what the PR operators of the drug TNCs are trying to do.

In this regard, we need to build up unity based on principles and social partnerships, for this is the only way we can neutralize and overcome the power of the transnationals. Practical experience also tells us that we need to respect each other’s spaces and initiatives and unite on the basis of concrete principles and doables. So it is my fervent hope that this conference will discuss how different civil society groups, no matter how diverse, can unite in the campaign for WTO’s DOHA TRIPs flexibilities and affordable medicines.

I say this in all candor because I truly believe we are just at the beginning of a long and intermittent fight. We do need a bigger victory. We can only secure such victory if we are united and strong.

—————————

Speech delivered at the Regional Workshop on Access to Medicines organized by Oxfam-International East Asia, Third World Network (TWN), Department of Health (DOH), Ayos na Gamot sa Abot-Kayang Presyo (AGAP) Coalition, and Cut the Cost, Cut the Pain Network (3CPNet) , held at SEAMEO-Innotech, Diliman, Quezon City, March 15-16, 2007.

Regional workshop on access to medicines
Doha Development Round Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and public health

The Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (RA 8293)

By Paolo Romero and Ma. Elisa Osorio
Published on The Philippine Star

THE government is firm in its commitment to global free trade as it gets fresh assurance from the World Trade Organization (WTO) of the benefits of liberalization to fragile economies, despite the stalled Doha round.

Visiting WTO Director General Pascal Lamy gave the assurance during a brief meeting Friday with President Arroyo and some Cabinet officials at Malacañang’s Music Room.

Lamy also thanked Mrs. Arroyo for helping the cause of world trade by hosting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cebu in January. Their meeting lasted for about 40 minutes.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila, who was at the meeting, said at a press briefing that while the Philippines does not speak for the developing countries, collectively known as G-33, the country has been pushing strongly for the resumption of the negotiations and for adequate protection for developing economies.

The WTO official left for Geneva after his meeting with Mrs. Arroyo. He arrived on Thursday in Manila from Indonesia.

Aside from Favila, the other officials at the meeting between Mrs. Arroyo and Lamy were Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, the country’s permanent representative to the WTO.

“I daresay we are ready to do our part in moving world trade. Let it not be said that the Philippines will be the stumbling block (to the resumption of the WTO talks), because we have done our homework, we have studied our numbers, we have looked at our stakeholders and considering also the amount of assistance that the President has ordered for agriculture, we’ll have a fighting chance,’’ Yap told reporters.

Developing countries are batting for special rules that will allow them to continue to restrict access to their agricultural markets.

He said the Philippines and other developing nations are following up on the promised aid to cushion the effects of the lifting of trade barriers.

The Doha round, which began in 2001, got stalled following disagreements over the rich nations’ granting of subsidies to sectors that would be affected by trade liberalization.

Teehankee, for his part, said Lamy affirmed to Mrs. Arroyo the “development dimension’’ of the Doha round. He said such commitment “ensures that the contribution from developing countries would be less than that of the developed (countries).’’ It was called Doha round because it was held in Doha, Qatar.

He added that Lamy was very grateful for ASEAN’s pushing the resumption of the talks.

Teehankee said the “main deliverables’’ under the Doha round would be the reduction of “trade-distorting domestic support ’’ by rich countries for vital sectors. He said another promise of the Doha round is “to rectify unfair subsidies and imbalances.’’

Earlier Friday, Sen. Manuel Roxas II, chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs and on trade and commerce, discussed with Lamy the ongoing efforts to bring down the prices of medicines in the country. Roxas authored Senate Bill 2263, which aimed to pull the costs of vital medicines.

He said he informed Lamy that his bill was in accordance with the Doha round and that it “conforms to existing practices followed by other countries.’’

Get out

Cause-oriented groups gave Lamy a hostile welcome at the Renaissance Hotel where he spoke before local businessmen.

One of the demonstrators was able to enter the hotel and shouted at Lamy to “get out’’ before he was whisked out by security men.

“It was a moment of spasm. I’m accustomed to that,’’ Lamy said of his experience.

Police said the demonstrators numbered around 100 people composed of members of fishers and farmers groups and civil society organizations.

Lamy, who got the same reception when he visited Indonesia days ago, said he is aware of the notoriety of WTO.

“WTO is a constant and frequent scapegoat. If you need someone to shout out, WTO is a great thing,’’ Lamy said.

Lamy said he is open to a dialogue with civil society groups. “I wish I could have the same sort of dialogue with the civil society here as I had in Geneva.’’

Wigberto Tañada, lead convenor of the Fair Trade Alliance and one of those tapped to comment on Lamy’s speech, said he is “wary and critical of WTO.”

Tañada said the organization failed to convince developed countries to correct the imbalances in existing trade rules.

He also challenged Lamy’s pronouncement that developed countries agreed to eliminate export subsidies. “How and when?’’ he asked.

“How can the WTO adopt a genuine development round and put the interest of developing countries in the heart of negotiations?’’

Tañada said the WTO is advocating a “one size fits all solution’’ to the different needs of different countries.

Meanwhile, cause-oriented groups warned Mrs. Arroyo against allowing unfair trade deals just to please the WTO.

“We caution President Arroyo against issuing orders to Secretary Favila and Secretary Yap that will pursue unfair trade deals only to receive rewards and compliments from the WTO body,’’ the groups said in a joint statement.

“Our government should remain firm in advocating for food security, livelihood security and rural development and hold their fort on the flexibilities accorded to developing countries,’’ the statement read.

The groups are composed of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, the International Gender and Trade Network, the Kababaihan ng Kilusang Mangingisda, the Kilusang Mangingisda, and the PAKISAMA, Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas among others.

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.

—————————

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.

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.

—————————

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.

By Angelo S. Samonte
Published on the February 24, 2007 issue of the Manila Times

Fair Trade Alliance, a broad coalition of NGOs from the agriculture and industrial manufacturing sector, said it does not believe that the breakthrough announced by WTO Director General Pascal Lamy is achievable within months.

Wigberto Tañada, the lead convener of FTA, said Lamy did not mention any timetable when the United States would slash subsidies for its agriculture sector.

Tañada said: “We don’t believe in his pronouncements because those are too vague. We want specific concessions from the developed countries, particularly from the US, by cutting huge farm support. He didn’t explain how big the cuts would be. Would it be on staggered basis? When will be the final elimination?”

In a separate statement, FTA reiterates its position in the ongoing Nonagricultural Market Access (NAMA) negotiations, particularly in determining the coefficient for the adoption of the Swiss formula for the tariff cuts.

“We propose a target of 50 percentage points, or minimum of 35, because having gone over various simulations prepared by the Tariff Commission and Board of Investments, we believe that targeting a coefficient of 50 will maximize the current policy space of NAMA tariff lines whose average bound rates is pegged at 23 percent,” it said.

“We also propose the adoption of a mark-up of 50 or a minimum of 35, to provide flexibilities for the treatment of unbound tariff lines, considered to be sensitive and instrumental to economic development.

The FTA also supports the inclusion of sensitive products in the exclusion list, saying that the proposed minimum of 10 percent of total tariff lines will be good for the Philippines: “The FTA firmly stands for the preservation of the current policy space and work towards the development of a roadmap for industrial policy harmonization and upgrading that will make our industries more globally competitive.”

Reacting to Lamy’s visit to the Philippines, the Tambuyog Development Center, an NGO for fishery sector development said the WTO must reconsider the positions of developing countries by focusing negotiations to export distorting support instead of market access.

Tambuyog said talks should also include subsidies being given to industries in more developed countries rather than tackling market access issues that only favor industrialized countries.

Besides these issues, Tambuyog said the global trade body must recognize the need for protection of less developed countries, particularly their sensitive sectors through the use of special products (SP) and special safeguard mechanism (SSM).

would be detrimental for our industries that remain weak that’s why we should seek more protection,” Tañada said.

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.

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.




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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.
  • Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade)
    3/f Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) Headquarters
    #56 Mo. Ignacia cor. Dr. Lascano, Quezon City, The Philippines
    (+632) 372 49 91 to 92 local 30
    (+632) 372 39 24
    fta[at]fairtradealliance.org

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