Arroyo tells officials: Be 'flexible, cautious' with Lamy

By Christine A. Gaylican,

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: February 23, 2007



MANILA, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has told her officials to keep a “flexible but cautious” stance when they meet this Friday with visiting World Trade Organization director general Pascal Lamy, one of the officials said Thursday.


Arroyo's instruction to her economic team is “to keep an open mind for possible breakthroughs in the negotiations but not to waylay the country’s national interest,” Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said in an interview.


“The President would not want the Philippines to be an obstacle to world trade," Yap said. "But, at the same time, she wants us to bear in mind that [our stand] should be for our national interest.”


Yap said the President knew about the critical trade mechanisms, such as the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) and the special products (SP), being pushed by the Philippines and the other members of the Group of 33 developing countries at the WTO.


Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, head of the Philippine delegation regarding agriculture policies in the WTO, said in a previous interview that the Philippines and the G33 were pleading their case on the need for developing countries to reduce import duties on sensitive agricultural products at their own pace.


Lamy said, however, that the position of the G33 on agriculture was “a major stumbling block” to the resumption of the stalled WTO talks.


Lamy is now urging participants in the recently resumed Doha Development Round negotiations to work on a compromise.


In a separate interview, civil society groups led by Walden Bello’s Focus on the Global South and R1 Rice Action Network expressed grave concern over Lamy’s perceived move to “soften” the stand of the Philippines and Indonesia on the trade mechanisms.


“It would be a pity if the softening of the G33 position happens within Philippine territory when we, together with Indonesia are in the forefront of this fight,” said Bello, a columnist for






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