‘Interim Deal’ in Hong Kong a Betrayal of Philippine Interest!


The ‘interim’ trade deal that is being hailed by the United States and Europe as the outcome of a successful Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization betrays Philippine interest and that of other developing countries.

In exchange for what is being purported as a major concession by the European Union to eliminate exports subsidies by 2013, developing countries have signed on to a disastrous Ministerial text that paves the way for the conclusion by 2006 of an anti-development trade agreements under the Doha

In all the critical areas of negotiations-agriculture, non-agricultural market access, services, and the issue of development, the text locks-in very critical and highly contentious areas like ambitious tariff reduction formula in NAMA and the plurilateral approach in services while glossing over the divergent views that have already been expressed by countries in the course of the negotiations and specially in the last few days of the Ministerial in Hong Kong.

The ‘deal’ is reminiscent of the flawed and undemocratic ‘July Framework’that was the basis of the negotiations. The text remains conveniently vague in most of the contentious areas, allowing little space for negotiations while very clear in certain areas. The objective is to project success in Hong Kong and prevent a monumental collapse of the Doha Negotiations.

Four years ago, the Doha Round negotiations was launched with the promise of development. The outcome of the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting effectively kills that promise of development. We have been proven correct that the Doha
Round ‘s promise of development is nothing more than an empty promise. Judged against the Doha Round’s avowed development objectives, then HongKong is indeed a failure.

The ‘interim’ deal is a betrayal of the Philippine government’s own position to preserve policy space in the interest of defending the national interest. The concessions that were made in NAMA and services surely constitute an erosion of policy space and are inimical to national interest.

The government vowed to put the issue of flexibilities ahead of the formula in the NAMA negotiations. Secretary Peter Favila himself said that the position of the Philippines is “No movement in the forumula (no discussion in the coefficients) unless we secure the paragraph 8 flexibilities.” ThePhilippines was one of 11 countries that expressed the strong demand to put ‘development’ and flexibilities at the center of the NAMA negotiations. The text effectively ignores the clamor of developing countries including the Philippines for these flexibilities. What we got isntead in NAMA is anambitious formula to cut tariffs on industrial and other non-agricultural products like fisheries.

The government vowed to preserve the flexibilities again on services, vowing to oppose the highly flawed and disastrous Annex C, which would force us to offer services sectors beyond what we have already agreed to do so. ThePhilippine government was again part of the small group of countries that have expressed the view that Annex C should not be part of the Ministerial text because there was no consensus on it. What we got was Annex C with itsplurilateral approach and qualitative targets that would forceliberalization of services sectors throughout the developing world.

Ultimately, the Philippine government must be held accountable for its failure to defend our national interest in the negotiations.

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