Manila, September 17, 2003  (STAR) Former Sen. Wigberto Tañada said yesterday the collapse of the 5th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Cancun, Mexico should impel the Philippines to immediately correct the country’s unilateral and accelerated tariff reduction program that was "too steep and too fast" even by the standards of the WTO itself.

In a statement, Tañada, lead convenor of the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA), stressed the failure of the Cancun talks means continued unfairness in global trade as developed countries will continue to subsidize their local industries to the detriment of developing countries.

"The massive subsidies of developed countries to their local industries, particularly in agriculture, means the continued perpetration of unfair trade practices on developing countries, especially those that blindly opened their markets without safeguards. This means that developing countries like the Philippines will continue to be the dumping ground of unfairly priced goods that will undermine local industries and threaten jobs and development. No developing country can ever compete against subsidized production," Tañada said.

Tañada said the government should now immediately shoot down its MFN (most-favored nation) accelerated tariff reduction program by repealing Executive Order 334 that is set to slash tariffs on imported products to 0 to 5 percent by Jan. 1, 2004.

"Our tariff reform reduction program that was pursued by the Philippines two decades ago are not even WTO commitments but a unilateral policy. In doing so, we engaged in ‘unilateral tariff disarmament" causing the collapse of many of our local industries and the loss of many jobs and livelihoods of our workers and farmers. Since these are self-inflicted tariff cuts, we can reverse the course especially with the failure of the Cancun talks. We have to ‘rearm’ as other nations have done and will do from hereon. Otherwise, we will continue to be the dumping ground of unfairly traded goods," he said.

Tañada cited the strong position taken by the Philippines during the talks, particularly in aligning with other developing nations such as China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia in the G23 (Group of 23) against efforts of rich nations to maintain their subsidies while pressuring poor nations to open up their markets. "But the Philippines position in Cancun, no matter how brave, will be put to naught if our trade and tariff policies will not be correspondingly corrected," he said.

The FTA is a multi-sector organization formed two years ago in defense of Philippine industries, agriculture and jobs from the ill-effects of unbridled globalization and trade liberalization.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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