Philippine groups warn WTO proposals a bane to developing countries
Quezon City, July 23- Philippine advocates in the agriculture, fishery and labor sectors
issued statements against the July 10 trade proposals of the World Trade Organization
(WTO), saying that they cause the country to lose the policy space needed to protect local
industries or to promote their development.
Their stance against the WTO came out as the multilateral trading body was holding a
meeting of senior negotiators in Geneva since Monday. The meeting was to last until
Joseph Purugganan of Stop the New Round Coalition said that the trade proposals
represent the latest attempt by developed countries to severely constrict the flexibilities
given to developing countries in this supposedly "development" Round of negotiations
and makes a "mockery" of the principle of special and differential treatment accorded to
Ephraim Batungbacal of Tambuyog Development Center, a fishery non-government
organization, supported this view. He said that in the Non-Agriculture Market Access
(NAMA) negotiations, steep tariff cuts are in store for developing countries after the
binding formula is applied, at percentages that are nearly twice those of the developed
"For example, using the proposed 19-26 percent coefficient range for developing
countries, the Philippines would cut its tariffs at an average of 44 percent while the US,
using the proposed coefficient range of 7-9 for developed countries, would have tariff
cuts averaging only 24 percent. This is special and differential treatment applied in
reverse—not for the developing but the developed countries," Batungbacal explained.
Jeck Cantos of the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) said that in the agriculture
negotiations, flexibilities are being curtailed that are part and parcel of the special and
differential treatment principle. "There is an attempt to introduce tariff cuts even in
products covered under the Special Products (SP) category. In the Special Safeguard
Mechanism (SSM) category, there is also the attempt to limit the product coverage and to
cap the level of tariff protection that can be applied to Doha bound levels," he said.
Bonifacio Federizo of Kilusang Mangingisda, a national coalition of fisher organizations,
said that in contrast, the developed countries led by the US and EU have resorted to every
effort to avoid reducing their gargantuan trade-distorting farm and fisheries subsidies that
act as fetters to market access and promote dumping and overfishing.
Federizo pointed out that these subsidies are supposedly prohibited under the very free
market principles governing the WTO. "Agriculture subsidies of the US and EU amount
to nearly USD 30 billion yearly while the total fishery subsidies in the world amount to
USD 20 billion yearly," he said.
Joshua Mata of the Alliance of Progressive Labor said that the WTO proposals have
grave impacts on the local industries and labor employment, including those in the
services sector. He explained that negotiations on the liberalization of services are being
fast-tracked and aim for a level that is comparable with that in agriculture and NAMA.
The groups warned that that the WTO proposals are proving that the Doha Development
Round is actually an "anti-development" Round that, if approved, would set back the
industrialization process in the developing countries and usher in an era of massive
economic dislocations, food crisis and social conflicts in the developing countries. –End-