Representative Lorenzo “Erin” R. Tañada III (Liberal Party, 4th District Quezon) called on Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila and Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to personally go, attend, fiercely negotiate and use the country’s veto power in the WTO talks to ensure that the country’s interest is fought for in the WTO mini-ministerial meeting in Geneva starting Monday, 21 July.
“I am saddened to hear that not even our supposed chief negotiator on trade talks, Secretary Favila is going. I hope I heard wrong. While I do not doubt the negotiating capacities of most government bureaucrats we have sent in the mini-ministerial, still, the privilege to take the floor and make a point during the talks is given first and foremost to ministers. Undersecretaries are second priority there,” Tañada said.
The solon who is likewise Vice Chair of Congress’ Special Committee on WTO and Globalization and Chair of the Committee on Human Rights lamented that at the time when the country is having a serious food crisis, Secretary Yap likewise chose to remain rather than personally wage a battle to ensure that the outcome of the talks advances the country’s food and livelihood security as well as rural development.
“Our trade negotiators should capitalize on the claims that the Doha Round of Talks in the WTO is dubbed as a ‘Development Round’. As such, we must see significant reduction in the domestic subsidies given by developed countries – the US, EU, Australia, Japan – in their agriculture and similarly, recognition that the food crisis that part of the reason why there is a global food crisis is the untrammeled trade liberalization. Further, the draft text governing industrial goods does not exempt any sector from the tariff-cutting schedule which effectively prevents developing countries from developing their own industry champions. Finally, I am wary of the “silent operator” in the negotiations which is that of services. As they go via “request-offer” modality where the US and EU are most aggressive, side deals can be made to open up critical sectors in the economy like water and energy distribution, operation of public utilities, etc. which might go into a flow-blown negotiations if there are enough requests and offers.” Tañada pointed out.
“There is so much at stake in this round. Indeed, there are opportunities in the offing but similarly, there are real threats to our economy. No less than our supposed, incumbent trade and agriculture ministers should be in Geneva battling it out. And again, I repeat, they should be prepared to scuttle the talks if the deal is not favorable to our country’s interest,” he ended.