Local NGO to lead dialogue of civil society groups with G33 ministers

By Jennifer A. Ng

Businessmirror, March 19, 2007



THE Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), a coalition of farmers and civil society organizations, will lead a dialogue between civil society groups with farm ministers of the Group of 33 (G-33) in Indonesia to persuade them to remain firm in their position to protect the farm sectors of developing countries.


R1 said it is organizing a meeting of civil society organizations in Jakarta where the agriculture ministers of developing countries under the G33 is set to meet on March 20 leading to the resumption of global trade negotiations.


“We will be holding a dialogue with the agriculture ministers in the G33 and we’ll be waiting for their position on SP (Special Projects) and SSM (Special Safeguard Mechanism). We will make sure our governments will defend the livelihood and food security of our poor people and uphold rural development in the WTO negotiations,” said Cantos.


Aside from the Philippine groups, the local farmers groups and civil society organizations in Indonesia, Pakistan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Brazil are participating in the R1 meeting in Jakarta.


“We plan to make our presence felt in the G33 meeting and help our governments defend the livelihood of our poor farmers as the development of our poor economies remain under threat under the current state of negotiations in the WTO,” said Jessica Reyes-Cantos, R1 lead convenor.


Cantos said the United States and European Union have been meeting recently and are likely to block the exemption of some agricultural products of developing countries from tariff reduction.


“We are worried that this view may be treated as the convergence point in the resumption of talks in the WTO,” she said.


“The recent visit of WTO Director General Pascal Lamy in the Philippines showed that the farmers’ groups and civil society organizations are watching over the emerging positions in the trade talks and we intend to continue to be vigilant in every step of the way,” she said.


The WTO’s Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration allowed the Philippines and other developing countries to designate a specific number of agricultural products as Special Products (SP) with zero or minimum-tariff reduction.


The declaration also included the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) that allows developing countries to adjust tariffs upwards should there be an increased volume of imports or a sudden drop in import prices of agricultural products that compete with those produced by the local farmers.


The Philippines and Indonesia are two leading members of the G33 that was able to successfully include these flexibilities for agricultural products in the WTO talks in Hong Kong in December 2005.




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