We bring the Stop the New Round! (SNR!) campaign to a close. It has been a most grueling and glorious eight months for the farmers, fishers, workers and public interest groups and individuals who came together in February to push for wide-ranging reforms in Philippine trade, agriculture, industrial and general development policy.
We take this opportunity to take stock of what we have accomplished. In the eight months of the Stop the New Round! Campaign, SNR was able to raise the level of trade policy discourse in the country and brought the heretofore shadowy realm of Philippine trade policymaking into the light of national consciousness. With patience, tenacity and a sincere desire for dialogue, we were able to engage both the executive and legislative branches of government, bringing forward a clear-cut and integrated policy agenda as an alternative to the often nebulous positions of our top trade negotiators. The belated disclosure by Trade Secretary Manuel Roxas II of Philippine negotiating positions for Cancun was a concrete product of this engagement.
Recognizing the crucial importance of education work to the success of the campaign, SNR took on the difficult task of raising the consciousness of its core constituencies and the public at large. Through the successful conduct of local fora/consultations, SNR was able to raise local awareness and provide a venue for stakeholders to ventilate their concerns on trade and development issues.
SNR could not have done it alone. We acknowledge the invaluable contribution of friends in the media in this campaign. We thank them for bearing with us and for their patience in sifting through tomes of boring figures and sterile jargon in our shared desire to inform the public. We were keenly aware of the difficulty of making the complexity of international trade accessible to the average Filipino as well to our own members. For both the members of SNR! and of the media, it has been a steep learning curve indeed. But the quality of media reportage as well as the broad reach of the campaign was a testament to the success of our efforts.
We knew from the beginning, however, that ultimately the campaign would take us to the streets of the country’s capital and major cities. And so while an SNR! delegation monitored the progress of the on-going ministerial in Cancun, we marched through the familiar streets of Manila, Cebu and Davao to add our voices to the collective cry of the world’s marginalized farmers, fisherfolk, workers, women and small manufacturers.
We numbered ten thousand from our mobilized constituencies as well as those we were able to reach through our education work at the grassroots, to put pressure on the national leadership to remain steadfast in the face of the arm-twisting and intimidation tactics of the Northern powers.
We made it clear to our negotiators that we would watch them closely in Cancun and hold them accountable to government’s stated positions. The Philippines’ strong stand in the negotiations was, in no small measure, due to the pressure from SNR! and other domestic stakeholders. This was our contribution to the international campaign to prevent the launching of a new round of negotiations in the WTO including talks on the new issues of investments, government procurement and competition policy.
As the dust of the WTO ministerial’s collapse settles, we see the post-Cancun scenario taking shape. The US has announced that it will put more emphasis on bilateral trade talks, where it can more effectively bludgeon other countries into submission. Already, the Group of 21 developing countries, whose refusal to bow to US-EU pressure provided the death blow to any hopes of forging consensus, is being decimated. Meanwhile, the bold rhetoric which Philippine negotiators wielded in Cancun seems to have been abandoned in favor of pragmatism. The Department of Agriculture for instance, has launched a process of consultation to determine which products to include in a “special products” list. This is a clear indication that government is still bent on reducing tariffs, and is generally unwilling to pursue other option especially for threatened products.
Much work remains to be done in the days ahead. And while we close this campaign, we do not see this as a parting of ways. The various sectors that make up SNR! will sustain their campaign for policy change in agriculture, fisheries, industry and services. Many of us will still be working together in our various advocacies and through our other networks and alliances to face the bigger challenge ahead.
We claim the campaign as a success and vow to intensify our varied struggles to ensure that the victory in Cancun we helped bring about does not deteriorate in the face of political expediency.
The Stop the New Round! Coalition