MALACANANG, September 17, 2003  (STAR)  By Marichu Villanueva  - President Arroyo urged developing countries yesterday to seize the momentum gathered during the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Mexico to push for fair trade for the world’s poorer nations.

"We must now ride the fresh tide of trade politics that is just and fair to the developing nations and take into account the welfare of the great majority of the world’s peoples," she said in a statement.

"The emergence of the new alliance of more than 20 developing countries can be considered a positive outcome of the Cancun summit," the President said, adding that developing countries must stick together to ensure economic security at the grassroots level.

The Philippines, she said, will continue to work with the alliance to defend the welfare and livelihood of its farmers, fishermen and citizens who struggle in the margins of the economy.

"We cannot have political security, both in the national and global sense, if we cannot ensure economic security at the grassroots," said Mrs. Arroyo, who holds a doctorate in economics.

The trade talks in Cancun, Mexico collapsed Sunday after Brazil, India and other poorer countries united and refused to budge from demands for trade concessions from richer members of the 146-member WTO.

Thousands of protesters, many of them farmers who would have been hurt by new trade rules, also marched on the meeting and tried to shut it down.

The collapse of the talks has been hailed by some as a victory for the world’s poorer countries.

Mrs. Arroyo sent three of her economic managers to Cancun to negotiate for better trading terms for the Philippines under the WTO, particularly for the export of agricultural and fishery products being discriminated upon by non-tariff barriers in the markets of Australia, the United States and other developed countries.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas II, chief negotiator for the Philippine delegation at the WTO summit, called up the President to report about the collapse of the trade talks.

Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. and Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri joined Roxas in Cancun.

Lorenzo told the President that 21 developing countries, including the Philippines, have banded together to voice their common concern for better trading access of their products in the markets of the richer member countries of the WTO.

These 21 developing countries account for more than half of the world’s population.

Bunye admitted the collapse of the WTO talks means that existing trade arrangements of the Philippines with its richer trading partners remain unchanged until the issue of non-tariff barriers affecting the export of its agricultural and fishery products is addressed.

"The result of this deadlock in Mexico is we will have status quo in the conditions of our agricultural export products," he said.

"But we would like to assure them that the government will continue to work for ways to improve their access to the market of other countries," Bunye added.

He said Roxas’ team will be arriving in the country soon to give the President a full report about the WTO summit. — With AP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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