RP LEADS CALL FOR CHANGES IN DRAFT CANCUN MINISTERIAL TEXT

CANCUN, MEXICO, September 15, 2003  (STAR) By Marianne V. Go  - On the third day of what was to be the eve of the closure of the 5th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Meeting, Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the Philippines now faces further economic constraints if the draft ministerial text is accepted by members of the trade body without significant changes.

The text calls for the elimination of such subsidies on certain farm products deemed by developing countries to be of special importance to their livelihood.

Roxas expressed his disappointment over the draft text which, according to him "failed to reflect the concerns that the Philippine delegation had been trying so hard to get included in some form or the other."

"It seems like the chairman (referring to Dr. Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista, chairman of the 5th WTO ministerial conference) did not hear us," Roxas said.

"The (WTO) process did not take into account what we said," he lamented.

"We are very disappointed," Roxas said, but stopped short of threatening to derail the current WTO process by rejecting the final text which has to be passed through a consensus by all 146 WTO members.

Among some of the provisions that the Philippines is objecting against are those in agriculture which would further impose competition on Filipino farmers and the so-called Singapore issues which would virtually remove the sovereignty of individual countries to prioritize investments.

Roxas on Saturday night tried to seek support from other developing countries for a last ditch attempt to have certain language revised, deleted or included that would safeguard the Philippines and other developing countries’ concerns.

Malaysia’s feisty Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz had already issued a statement expressing Malaysia’s strong objection to certain provisions of the draft text.

WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said "every country has taken the position that it wants more of everything in areas where it is on the offensive and less of everything where they are on the defensive."

"Clearly, if this situation persists, it will be impossible to reach agreement on this ministerial text," he added.

The text was deemed conditionally acceptable on Saturday by the US and Europe but denounced by India and faulted by Brazil.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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