Rich countries bully PH on farm trade deal



by Othel V. Campos

Manila Standard Today

June 18, 2012  



Farmer groups and civil society organizations have urged the government to push for the extension of a tariff protection on rice and refused any concession demanded by the United States, Canada and Australia on livestock and poultry.


“It’s a shame that rich countries like the US, Canada and Australia will bully a poor country like the Philippines to get their unfair trade demands on basic food commodities, such as rice and livestock that are critical to the livelihood of poor Filipinos,” Aurora Regalado, convenor of Rice Watch and Action Network, said in a joint statement with the other groups.


“The rice farmers to be affected by liberalized importation are also small and backyard hogs and poultry growers who should be defended by the government at all cost,” the groups said.


The statement was signed by both farmers and civil society groups and sent to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on June 14. The government is negotiating for the extension of the quantitative restriction on rice which is due to expire this month.


The groups said the government should not allow any more movement in the country’s commitments in the tariff rate quota, in-quota tariff rate and country-specific quotas on rice because this will injure the local industry and endanger the survival of poor rice farmers.


The Philippines was allowed to impose a 50-percent tariff on imported rice under the World Trade Organization Uruguay Round agreement in 1995.


The Philippines wanted to extend the protection by another five years, but several countries wanted a compromise on other products. Australia, for one, asked the Philippines to reduce its import tariff on pork and poultry by up to 5 percent in exchange for the continuance of the restrictive policy on rice.


The United States and Canada had also tried to block the extension and demanded that the Philippines stop the implementation of Administrative Order 22 setting the rules and regulations on the handling of frozen and chilled meat and meat products to ensure better quality and safety. The farmers groups supported the position of livestock and poultry sector to enforce a single tariff rate in all products, and raise the tariff on offals to avoid technical smuggling.


The groups expressed concern that once the government gave up the fight for the extension of the quantitative restriction on rice, its plan for rice self-sufficiency by 2013 will be compromised.





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