TAÑADA ON THE WTO TALKS: “STRENGTHEN ALLIANCES WITH DEVELOPING COUNTRIES FOR FOOD AND LIVELIHOOD SECURITY”

Office of Rep. Lorenzo R. Tañada III
Chairperson: Committee on Human Rights
Northwing 409, House of Representatives, Quezon City
telefax: 9316478 or 9315001 loc. 7368 email:erin_tanada@yahoo.com
News Release- December 1, 2009 References: Erin Tanada-09193688555 Media officer: Laurice Ramos- 09228433311

TAÑADA ON THE WTO TALKS: “STRENGTHEN ALLIANCES WITH DEVELOPING COUNTRIES FOR FOOD AND LIVELIHOOD SECURITY”

(Geneva, Switzerland) The vice-chair of Congress’ Special Committee on Globalization and the World Trade Organization (WTO), Lorenzo ‘Erin’ R. Tañada III today called on Philippine Head of Delegation and Ambassador to the WTO, Manuel Teehankee to negotiate from the vantage point of ensuring food and livelihood security and to use that as a basis of unity to strengthen alliances with other developing countries.
The solon also drew caution on the watering down of key provisions that were clinched in the 2005 WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hongkong – the provision of Special Products and Special Safeguards Mechanism (SSM). In particular, he pointed out to the diminution of the percentage of agricultural tariff lines that will not be subject to huge tariff cuts from the original G33 position of 20 percent to now just 12 percent. Furthermore, the SSM which is of vital importance to the Philippines as our tariff rates are low to begin with, and is supposed to provide automatic tariff adjustments should there be import surges and price drops of imported commodities, is now littered with all sorts of conditions that will render it ineffective and inutile. It might even turn out to be worse than the WTO Uruguay Round proviso for tariff adjustments called Special Safeguard Provision (SSG). For instance, a developing country that has experienced import surge of an agricultural commodity will not be able to use SSM and raise tariff beyond the pre-Doha bound rate unless domestic prices are actually declining. This is known as “cross-check”.
“The Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) negotiations should likewise be carefully watched as similar to the Agriculture negotiations. If it pushes through, what is on the table would de-industrialize our country and leave our fisheries sector vulnerable. For one, the formula, coefficient and flexibilities that are being negotiated will bind developing countries to a tariff reduction program incongruent with their level of development. This should be consistent with the principle of ‘less than full reciprocity’ and substantially lower than the cuts undertaken by developed countries. Second, NAMA negotiations disallow the exclusion of whole chapters of tariff lines which means that our fishery sector cannot be exempted from tariff reductions. This leaves our fishery sector vulnerable to the influx of imports,” the solon said.
Tañada emphasized that while we had a food price and supply crisis in 2008 and our agricultural output this year is substantially constrained by the series of typhoons that hit the country, it should never be used as an excuse to liberalize the entry of imports and bind our tariffs to low levels such that we no longer have the flexibility to raise them if needed.
“The government is actually in a fiscal bind and would not have the funds to provide support both for our agriculture and industrial sectors. Tariffs are the first and last resort of these vulnerable sectors to have protection from unfair competition from highly subsidized imports. Let us not lose this defensive mechanism in the WTO negotiations. Let us strengthen our alliance with the G33 and NAMA 11,” he ended.

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