Pre-Ministerial Conference Statement of DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

10 December 017

Pre-Ministerial Conference Statement of DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

Chief Negotiator in the WTO and Head of Philippine Delegation in Buenos Aires

The Philippines has benefited from globalization, in particular from the WTO. We have been growing at the fastest rate for the past five years and globally-linked, modern sectors such as BPOs and IT-enabled services, semiconductors and electronics, parts manufacturing for GVCs in auto & aerospace, and shipbuilding (among others) have been major contributors.

Our goal in globalization is not only for the Philippines to grow, but for EACH and EVERY Filipino to participate in (and not just benefit from) economic development. We cannot rely on growth to trickle down; the marginalized should be active participants in economic activities at the outset. Poverty in the Philippines has a sectoral and geographic dimension. One-third (1/3) of rural Filipinos are poor, compared with one-tenth (1/10th) among those living in urban areas. In addition, while more than 99%of our enterprises belong to the Micro and Small categories; they account for only about 35% of total production.

These domestic realities set our Mission’s priorities at the WTO Ministerial Conference (MC) 11—Agriculture and MSMEs. Our international engagements—whether as active participants, or as host and Chair—have all been pursued as an extension of our domestic priorities. Our domestic priorities determine our international agenda and position. In the APEC Summit in Da Nang (Vietnam), President Rodrigo Duterte elevated our domestic focus on Inclusive Growth and Inclusive Business to Inclusive Regional Cooperation. At the ASEAN, our Chairmanship pushed for Inclusive Regional Integration. At the WTO MC 11, we will argue for Inclusive Globalization.

Hence, in Buenos Aires, Philippines’ continuing priorities are, first, the substantial reduction and/or elimination of trade-distorting domestic support by developed countries and developing countries which retain domestic support entitlements as well as the elimination of all forms of export subsidies; second, the improvement of disciplines to protect the domestic agricultural sector through a Special Safeguard Mechanism for agriculture; and third, outcomes that will lead to greater participation in international trade for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), particularly those based in developing countries.

Why is SSM a Philippine priority in MC11? SSM would allow developing countries to temporarily increase tariffs on agriculture products in cases of import surges or price declines. It prevents irreversible injury to very vulnerable farmers against price volatility. It also serves to balance large subsidies given to agricultural products in rich countries.

In addition, the Philippines places great importance on the role of MSMEs in promoting inclusive growth. However, we believe that even among MSMEs, competition needs to be fair among them—as what may be medium-sized enterprises in a developed country, may already by a large company in a developing country.  Thus we are pushing for a discussion on a comparable definition of MSMEs. But even among similarly-sized MSMEs—support system and resources vary from country to country. And, hence, the development level of countries should be considered.

Lastly, in MC 11, the Philippines will argue for the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) to remain as the overall framework for WTO negotiations. The Ministerial Declaration in Doha (2001) recognized that “trade can play a major role in the promotion of economic development and the alleviation of poverty.” In particular, the DDA highlights the need to provide a discipline on the subsidies being given by developed countries to their agriculture; and provide more effective temporary protection from price volatilities to poor, vulnerable farmers.

In summary, the Philippines’ priorities for MC11 are: 1) eliminate trade-distorting domestic support and export subsidies; 2) SSM for agriculture; and 3) a Ministerial decision on an MSME work programme that considers development levels. In addressing these, we will continue to uphold the DDA.

It is time for WTO to deliver on its promise. It should implement a globalization framework that is truly developmental and where no one is left behind.

DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol will be the co-lead of the PH Delegation in Buenos Aires on 11-13 December 2017. The group includes the representatives of DTI, DA, DFA, NEDA, Tariff Commission, NFA, IPO, PRC, Philippine Mission to the WTO, Philippine Embassy in Buenos Aires and Senate of the Philippines.

MC11 will gather trade ministers, foreign ministers and high-level representatives from the WTO’s 164 member countries. A total of 4,000 delegates are expected to attend.  A number of non-governmental civil society organizations (CSOs) and groups will be attending the event as observers. Meetings with Philippine-based CSOs will be arranged in Buenos Aires.

Submit a Comment