Activists calls on the Philippine Government to reflect on alternatives to the WTO

JULY 28,2006 GENEVA –  A day after the formal announcement of the suspension of the Doha Negotiations was made at the General Council Meeting by WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, a group of Filipino activists met with the Philippine Mission in Geneva to discuss the suspension of the talks and possible next steps for the Philippines.

Ambassador Teehankee shared with the group the statement of the Philippines at the General Council. The Philippines noted the report of the DG on the suspensions and the call for a time of reflection and accepted the action to suspend talks as "perhaps the only viable course given the divergence of views and positions.

The Philippines however stated its view that the suspension should not be indefinite or indeterminate as this will be inconsistent with the developmental spirit and mandate of the Doha.  "We will be committing an injustice to the efforts that we have all invested in the DDA negotiations if at the end of the reflection period we are unable to resume negotiations and address squarely the hard political questions that need to be mad" said  Teehankee in the statement. When and how the negotiations will resume however remains uncertain.

Reacting to the call by DG Lamy on the G6 countries to show sufficient political will in order to move the negotiations forward, Teehankee called on all countries not just the G6 to exhibit the same level of commitment to the talks and that all countries should " yield to the need to preserve the integrity and credibility of the WTO as an institution and the multilateral trading system as a whole".

This statement elicited a reaction from farmer leader Ka Jimmy Tadeo who questioned Teehankee on sharing the responsibility for the collapse when clearly the collapse was due to the intransigence of the superpowers particularly the United States.  Tadeo raised the concern that this attitude might be viewed as a signal that the Philippines is willing to make more concessions for the sake of the round.

Teehankee clarified that that part of the statement was meant to challenge the notion that the decision-making be left to the G6 countries alone and that developing countries should be part of the process.

For his part, Ka Ruperto Aleroza of the Fisherfolk Movement expressed happiness over the collapse of the talks. According to Aleroza, the negotiations in the WTO have failed to address the demands of small fishers for protection. The deal that is being negotiated in the Doha Round will be detrimental to the interest of the small fishers and so it is their interest that the talks remain stalled and hopefully the suspension of the talks becomes permanent.

The Philippines also called on countries to resist attempts to carve out certain issues from the Doha Agenda as the resolution of these issues should form part of the overall balance of the round and the single undertaking.  Some LDC members have called on a continuation of discussions on certain issues like aid for trade, special and differential treatment and duty free quota free market access for developing countries.  The EU on the otherhand has stated its desire to continue talks on the issue of trade facilitation.

Recalling the objective of the round to rectify the imbalances and fundamental inequities in the multilateral trading system, the Philippines called on developed countries to accept a smaller share of the benefits from the negotiations.

Ambassador Teehankee discussed two possible scenarios in the wake of the suspension of the negotiations.  The best-case scenario according to Teehankee is that the negotiations resume as soon as possible. The period of reflection should be used to consult, consolidate and strengthen our position on the DDA.  The second scenario is that the talks remain suspended for a longer period, in which case we must not let our guards down as we face the challenge of bilateral negotiations.

On their part Filipino activists who took part in protest actions on the WTO in Geneva challenged our negotiators to use the period of reflection to think about alternatives to the WTO.

The Stop the New Round! Coalition presented a statement to Ambassador Teehankee and the rest of the Philippine Mission calling on the Philippine government to abandon the Doha Round and begin imagining a world beyond the WTO.

"In this critical juncture of uncertainty, the Stop the New Round reiterates its demand on the Philippine Government to abandon the Doha Round on the basis that it would be detrimental to the interest of the country particularly the poor and marginalized sectors. Our national interest lies in preventing a lopsided deal favoring the rich countries from coming to fruition" SNR said in their statement.

The delegation of activists included representatives from Kilusang Mangingisda (Fisherfolk Movement), Alyansa ng Maliliit na Magbubukid at Mangingisda (Alliance of Small Farmers and Fishers), Tambuyog Development Center, the Rice Watch Action Network, International Gender and Trade Network, Focus on the Global South and the Stop the New Round Coalition.