A broad coalition of social movements and civil society organizations assailed the current negotiations for new multilateral trade deals under the World Trade Organization and demanded that the Philippine government led by our chief negotiator Trade Secretary Peter Favila oppose any such deal from moving forward in Hong Kong.
Around 5, 000 farmers, fishers, laborers, students, urban poor, small producers and NGO workers from the Stop the New Round! Coalition are expected to gather at Plaza Miranda to dramatize their opposition to new trade agreements.
Filipino farmers, fishers, workers, women, mass organizations and activists have repeatedly pointed out that there is nothing even remotely developmental about the current round of WTO negotiations. On the contrary, the negotiations are heading in a direction that will lock the world’s peoples in a trade regime that will have disastrous impacts on food security, industry, employment, livelihoods, the environment, livelihoods and the access of millions of people to essential services, technology and health-care.
According to Focus on the Global South’s Joseph Purugganan “ The negotiations have gone from bad to worse. In each of the major negotiating areas from agriculture, to industrial tariffs, to services, developed countries have been able to have their way, virtually ramming their ambitious liberalization agenda down the throats of developing countries.”
A new deal on agriculture would force the Philippines to implement tariff cuts on bound levels of agricultural products by as much as 30-50%. This means that for products like vegetables for instance, the 40 bound tariff rate under the Uruguay Round would have to be reduced to a low of 20-22%.
“This clearly amounts to erosion of policy space. The case of vegetables show that an applied tariff rate of 25% remains insufficient protection agains the entry of cheap vegetables mainly coming from Taiwan and China” Purugganan added.
“What farmers all over the country are asking for is greater support and protection; a respite from liberalization and not a new round of liberalization.” said Joselito Tambalo, farmer leader of SAKAHAN from Nueva Ecija.
The negotiations for Non-agricultural market access or NAMA on the otherhand would force us to bind the remaining 39% of our non-agricultural products that remain outside the ambit of the WTO. This includes 95 % of tariff lines for fisheries.
“It is our view that binding is a major concession that the Philippine government should not be making. Binding our remaining tariff lines would be tantamount to closing our policy options for future development of our industries” according to Buddy dela Cruz of the Kilusang Maningisda (fisherfolk movement)
“We are also seriously concern over the push for sectoral negotiations in such critical areas like fisheries. May we the government that small, subsistence fishers are also part of the fisheries sector and not just the aquaculture sector and commercial fishing sector geared for export. We fear that sectoral liberalization of fisheries would further undermine the livelihoods of millions of small fishers across the country” added dela Cruz.
On services, the latest twists and turns in the negotiations has been described by one Geneva based analyst as nothing short of scandalous. According to Alliance of Progressive Labor’s Josua Mata “It is obvious that developed countries, especially those with aggressive interests in capturing the growing services market, want to seal a new deal on services in Hong Kong”. “We definitely see the hand of huge corporate lobby working here. They want to ram down the throats of developing countries a new deal on services despite wide opposition”, added Mata.
There are so much at stake in the coming minsterial conference in Hong Kong. The country’s top negotiators, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, Agriculture Secretary Luis Panganiban and Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos however have stymied any attempts by public interest groups and affected sectors to bring the issue of trade negotiations out in the public arena. Secretary Peter Favila clearly ignored SNR!’s request for a dialogue with the affected sectors. As the country’s chief negotiator in the WTO, the Secretary’s representation in the upcoming Ministerial in Hong Kong ultimately will bind the country to enforceable commitments under the multilateral trading body.
No deal is better than a bad deal!
“The latest proposals from developed countries amount to empty promises once again. It has become clear that developing countries like the Philippines should now forego any hope that these negotiations could still be rescued to serve the development interest of poor countries” added Purugganan. “The only viable strategy therefore is to oppose these proposed new agreements and derail the ministerial meeting of the WTO in Hong Kong” he added.
For more details or for interviews with SNR leaders please get in touch with :
Joseph Purugganan, spokesperson Stop the New Round! Coalition
Telephone: 4331676; Mobile: 0917-387-4531. Email: [email protected]