POOR NATIONS GAINED 'EQUITABLE' DEAL IN WTO TALKS IN HK - FAVILA

MANILA, December 22, 2005
 (STAR) By Marianne V. Go - Trade and Industry Secretary Peter B. Favila believes that developing countries were able to get an equitable deal from developed countries during the recently concluded World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong.

According to Favila, developing countries provided much needed leverage to get concessions from developed countries in effect bringing the development agenda forward for future WTO negotiations.

"A delicate horizontal Doha Development Agenda (DDA) balance seems to have been struck in Hong Kong. We will take this document in good faith to Geneva as the basis for further work as we look to the meaningful and successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round," Favila said.

"We have carefully examined the Ministerial Declaration and are gratified that we find many elements in it that embraces the development dimensions of our negotiations," Favila said.

In agriculture, Favila continued, "we welcome the clear direction given on how to operationalize the special products (SP) and special safeguards mechanism (SSM)."

The agreement also placed 2013 as the end date for the elimination of export subsidies.

On the Ministerial Declaration, Favila was pleased with the adoption of a Swiss formula for the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiations.

The Philippine delegation, Favila said, "derives comfort that our negotiators back in Geneva will be working on the basis of coefficients, i.e. more than one, which is consistent with the less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments and special and differential treatment."

Concerning Paragraph 15 of the Ministerial Declaration which is of vital importance to the Philippine delegation, Favila reiterated that Paragraph 8 of the July Framework is a stand alone provision and that the facilities contained therein for sensitive products are the minimum requirements for developing countries.

On Paragraph 16, Favila said that a compromise solution was achieved by stating the non-mandatory nature of participation in pursuing sectoral initiatives.

The Philippines is prepared to work on the commencement of tariff reduction in NAMA using a non-linear mark-up approach on the understanding that in the finalization of the details, a pragmatic solution be found for the low and applied rates. Favila added that "NAMA is to be achieved in a balanced and proportionate manner consistent with special and differential treatment."

With regards to the services negotiations, the Philippines indicated that it will not agree to any new commitments or obligations aside from those provided in the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) and the Negotiating Guidelines. The Philippine position was firm that Annex C provides mere guidelines to members and expressly commits itself to respect national policy objectives and the level of development of individual members.

Favila stressed the need to ensure that the negotiations are undertaken by all member states based on universal benefit, where just and fair balance of rights and obligations are established.

He stated that "the process of liberalization should take place with due respect for the developmental policy space, consistent with the national policy objectives of members."

"These negotiations cannot be merely about broad liberalizations or high ambition, which we concede are legitimate objectives, but must be tempered with the equally legitimate need to remember that Doha is a developmental round. It is imperative that the developmental needs of an overwhelming number of WTO members should guide such negotiations," Favila said.

He added that "we are to use free and fair trade in order to break the shackles of global poverty and bestow on future generations genuine freedom from want."

Finally, Favila commended Hong Kong, China for its hospitality and excellent arrangements during the Ministerial Conference.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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