Think Beyond Cancun, Recast Philippine Trade Policy

Carlito Anonuevo, Jessica Reyes-Cantos, Jenina Joy Chavez, Alvin Firmeza, Jose Ernesto Ledesma, Nepomuceno Malaluan, Ma. Cristina Morales, Rene Ofreneo, Rene Raya, and Filomeno Sta. Ana III

This week, from 10 to 14 September, our country’s trade negotiators headed by Secretary Manuel Roxas II are in the famous resort city of Cancun, Mexico for the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is the fifth Ministerial Conference since the establishment of the WTO on 1 January 1995. The Cancun Ministerial takes stock of the progress of negotiations under the Work Programme adopted by the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in November 2001. The Doha Work Programme among others aimed to negotiate new agreements for further liberalization in agriculture, services, and non-agricultural products. It also aimed to launch negotiations for multilateral agreements on ” new issues” of investment, competition policy, government procurement, and trade facilitation.

While the Doha Work Programme set a negotiation timeline of up to 1
January 2005, Cancun seeks to reach agreement on at least the framework
for modalities so that negotiations can proceed to the detailed
commitments.

Cancun will be a turning point in the battle between the liberalization fundamentalists on one side, and the growing anti-globalization activists on the other side. The liberalization fundamentalists will come in full force to secure an agreement on framework modalities in
Cancun. They want to clinch new agreements to deepen and add to the
agreements under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-Uruguay
Round (GATT-UR). The GATT_UR has a 10-year implementation period that
ends on 31 December 2004. The objective is to sustain the dominance of
the WTO agenda of ever-deepening liberalization. Anti-globalization
activists, on the other hand, will also come in full force on the streets of Cancun and in the WTO member country capitals, calling for the dismantling of the WTO.

Beneath the ideological struggle are facts unfolding in the close to
nine years of implementation of the GATT-UR. One, the translation of
the GATT-Uruguay Round into individual country trade policy has not
been uniform. Some countries have lowered tariffs more than others.
Two, the implementation of the GATT-UR has seen developed countries
increasing domestic support to their tradeables, particularly agriculture. Three, given the differential application of the GATT-UR and the different overall country policies, the results of the implementation of the GATT-UR have been mixed across the WTO member countries, with net winners and net losers across the globe.

These facts, along with the country’s experience as a result of the way
government has implemented the GATT-UR, must be carefully considered in
defining the Philippine position in the ongoing talks and its stance at
the Cancun Ministerial Conference.

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