On World Food Week (10/17/07)




“Should our food security and rural livelihood be seriously threatened and no real development deal is in the offing for developing countries in the so-called Doha Round of the WTO negotiations, Malacañang should send a strong signal that we are ready to walk away and scuttle the talks,”  Representative Lorenzo R. Tañada III (LP, 4th District, Quezon and Chair of the  House of Representatives’ Human Rights Committee)  said as the WTO negotiations come to a “make-or-break”  stage in the coming weeks in Geneva.


It appears that the very essence of the so-called Doha Development Round will not come to pass with the virtual dilution of the proposal of the G33 (a group of developing countries with defensive interests in agriculture) with regard to the self-designation of Special Products and a mechanism to protect them called Special Safeguard Measures (SSM) in the proposed text by the WTO Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer.     


Special Products or SP are those products critical in ensuring food security, livelihood and rural development. For us, this includes rice, corn, livestock and poultry, vegetables among others.  Being included in the SP list, as originally conceptualized by the G33 allows the product to be exempted from tariff cuts. SSM on the other hand would give us the option to raise tariffs automatically, without any need for proof of injury and other tedious processes, should there be an import surge or a price plunge on the cost of imported agriculture products that compete with our agriculture products produced by small, marginalized farmers.


“At the moment, rather than self-designation, what Falconer has put forward is a formula similar to what was implemented when we formally joined the WTO in January 1995.  It is called a Uruguay Round (UR) formula where all agriculture tariff lines will be subjected to a minimum tariff cut of 15%  and the overall agriculture sector having an average tariff cut of 36% spread over ten years.  As far as SSM is concerned, the modalities are yet to be identified.  That virtually throws into the waste basket the very framework of the WTO Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December 2005.  Where is the element of self-designation there?  Where does the consideration of rural development and food security come into play?  I don’t see it,”  Tañada emphatically said.


As the nation joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Food Day, the solon reminded government of the record hunger levels that was registered in the recent SWS survey. 


“We must seriously address the lack of policy coherence in our agriculture sector, as well as the rest of the economy, as after all, agriculture not only feeds our ever growing population, it still contributes nearly 40% of total employment yet poverty is most pervasive in the rural sector,”  Tañada said.


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