Official Stop the New Round! Coalition Statement, September 9, 2003
Stop the new WTO round! Caravan and SNR! Cancun monitor launched to defend Philippine interest in trade talks
On Wednesday, September 10, 10 a.m. in Cancun, Mexico (12 midnight Manila time), the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) formally opens for a five-day meeting to take stock of the progress of negotiations under the Work Programme adopted at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in November 2001. The Cancun Ministerial is very critical. It puts on the table the framework within which to conclude negotiations for new agreements in agriculture, non-agriculture products, and services, as well as the framework to launch new negotiations on the new issues of investment, competition policy, government procurement, and trade facilitation.
It is in the best interest of the Philippines that the framework in the Cancun draft ministerial declaration circulated by the WTO General Council and Secretariat is not passed. The draft calls for further tariff cuts in all agriculture products, further tariff cuts and the binding of all non-agricultural products, the deadline for the submission of offers for liberalization in services, and the possible commencement of negotiations on the new issues.
In the six months of campaigning by the Stop the New Round! Coalition, we are convinced that the Philippine Government is not prepared to defend the public interest in the negotiations. It is therefore not in a position to agree to any commitments to further liberalize trade. No study on the impact of its trade liberalization program has been conducted. Consultations on the Cancun issues were done only in August this year, and they were held only in Manila, even as negotiations have been ongoing since December 2001. The tariff review was started only recently and it is far from being completed. Having failed to do their homework, our negotiators can only present indicative negotiating positions that are seriously lacking in detail.
In contrast, the other WTO member-countries have clear and detailed positions proceeding from their well-thought out industrial and trade policy. For instance:
- European Union negotiators have put their foot down against any substantial reduction in export subsidies and domestic support.
- The US has criticized the clamor for clear differential treatment in developing country agriculture, saying that it sends the wrong signal of constructing a two-tiered trading system.
- Japan has insisted on average tariff cuts instead of ceiling on import duties to allow it to maintain its very high tariff rates on protected products such as rice.
- China has said it is not prepared to undertake any further tariff cuts in industrial and farm products.
- India has been very vocal in pushing for substantial reduction of, with the view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies.
SNR! Cancun Monitor
With the negotiating position of the Philippines confined to general rhetoric and without clear bottom lines, it is imperative that we keep close watch of the positioning of the Philippine negotiating team in Cancun. The Stop the New Round! Coalition sent a delegation to Cancun to monitor the Ministerial Meeting and the Philippine negotiators’ positions, to join parallel events organized by different public interest organizations, and to participate in street actions.
SNR! will monitor the speeches that the Philippine negotiators will deliver in plenary, the written positions they will submit to the Secretariat, and the positions they will carry in informal consultations. We will monitor the alliances they make, and the groupings they will oppose. We will monitor the directives coming from Malacanang, which will be decisive as negotiations turn political. We will hold the negotiators accountable for what little they committed to us. In particular, we will monitor how they will work to oppose or retard the launch of negotiations on new issues as they earlier pronounced.
To share our analysis with the public, we will dispatch a daily SNR! Coalition Monitor of the negotiations and other parallel events for the duration of the WTO Fifth Ministerial. We have arranged for members of the delegation to file reports for national dailies and radio stations. The SNR! will also arrange for phone patch interviews for key developments and updates whenever necessary.
Stop the New Round! Caravan
During our hard-earned opportunity to meet Secretary Manuel Roxas II, he said that it is up to them to determine what the public interest will be in Cancun. We do not accept that. We will make sure that we will be a considerable force in defining the public interest in Cancun, and in making our negotiators accountable to that interest.
On September 12, the Stop the New Round! Coalition will launch a Luzon-wide caravan of farmers, fisherfolk, small manufacturing producers, and other affected sectors.
The caravan will have around 300 jeepneys. The caravan will start simultaneously from Isabela in North Luzon and in Albay/Sorsogon from South Luzon. Contingents from Benguet, Pangansinan, Aurora, Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan will join the caravan during from North Luzon the day. From Albay/Sorsogon, groups will join in from Quezon, Batangas, Laguna and Cavite. The caravan will stop in Lucena, Calamba, Pampanga, and Bulacan to hold street programs.
The first batch of 75 jeepneys will arrive in Manila on the night of September 12. They will join in a torch parade in front of the Department of Agriculture building and around the Quezon City elliptical road. The night will be capped by a concert program inside the Quezon City Circle, where the farmers and fisherfolks who joined the caravan will also stay for the night. Others in the caravan will hold overnight programs in Calamba, and Bulacan. They will enter Metro Manila on the morning of September 13.
Mobilizing for the caravan are the following organizations, Sandigan at Ugnayan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (SUMAPI), Pambansang Katipunan ng Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), Pakisama, groups belonging to the Philippine NGO Liaison Committee on food security and fair trade (PNLC), UNORKA, Kilusan Para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD), Freedom from Debt Coalition, Kalayaan, BISIG, and Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL). They will be joined on the night of September 12, by Benguet vegetable farmers, the Samahang Magsasapatos ng Pilipinas, Metro Manila based NGOs, students, and members of the community. SNR! Mindanao will also hold dramatic actions to join the national call in Davao City on September 12.
On September 13, the caravan will be joined by a mobilization of workers and students from Sanlakas, Akbayan, Kilusan Para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Kalayaan, and BISIG in a march to Mendiola to bring to the doorsteps of Malacanang the clamor to stop the new round of liberalization in the WTO. SNR! Cebu will hold whole day protest activities in Cebu City.
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