Farmers threatened by proposal to make food imports cheaper

Robert JA Basilio Jr, GMANews.TV

July 22, 2008


MANILA, Philippines - A global proposal making food imports cheaper threaten the livelihood of poor farmers in developing countries like the Philippines, a joint statement by three local groups said.

Since the country “cannot afford massive tariff cuts in agriculture," Filipino trade negotiators in Geneva—the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO)—should continue to demand protection for local products, the groups said.

For one, trade ministers should “assert the Philippines’ right" to increase the number of local products that should be given tariff protection, said Geogie San Diego, President of United Broilers Raisers’ Association (UBRA).

Together with the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) and National Rice Farmers Council (NRFC), UBRA said that the country’s trade representatives should “designate at least 20 percent of our agricultural tariff lines as special products and not the current proposal of 10-18 per cent only."

Items under “Special Products" (SP) enjoy lesser tariff cuts than the regular formula reductions stated in the WTO’s market access provision, the groups claimed.

The groups also sought Manila’s support in their attempts to increase additional duties on imported products as indicated in the Special Safeguards Mechanism (SSM) scheme of the WTO.

The mechanism allows developing countries to impose more taxes on imports if the volume of these goods rises to a certain level or if prices fall, an arrangement which “unfairly competes with local agricultural products."

However, under current WTO rules, countries are only allowed to impose additional duties of up to 50 percent.

“We strongly urge Agriculture Secretary [Arthur C.] Yap to push for the tariff adjustment without ceiling to give our local agriculture sector enough protection to survive the competition with imported agricultural products," said Jaime Tadeo, NRFC Chairperson.

The groups added that Filipino negotiators should “resist the efforts of developed countries to preserve their subsidies on agriculture…which distort trade."

“Their heavily subsidized agricultural products are unfairly competing with our poorly-supported farm sector," said San Diego.

The G33, a group of developing countries in the WTO has pushed for the Special Products (SP) and Special Safeguard Mechanisms (SSM) as flexibility measures to correct the inequalities under the liberalized trade regime. -





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