Allied with Developing Countries; RP Airs Position at Coming WTO Talks

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Byline: BERNIE CAHILESa"MAGKILAT

The Philippines, a member of the two developing country groups G20 and G33, has stressed that the result of the 6th WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong can only be called a success if the interests of the developing countries are sufficiently reflected in the results of the conference.

Manuel A.J. Teehankee, Philippine permanent representative to WTO, has pointed this out as advanced countries, although progress in negotiations are notably encouraging, are still far from agreeing to demands from developing countries of dismantling their domestic and export subsidies.

"What we are trying to seek in Hong Kong is a balanced agreement meaning one that is reflective of the views of developing countries because only then that we are in a position to define success in terms of developing countries being reflected in the results of the conference or in the minis declaration sufficiently. If that is the result then we are making progress towards a balanced outcome," Teehankee said.

So far, Teehankee said, negotiations indicated willingness from the advanced countries, European Union and the US to reduce their agricultural subsidies, the most contentious issues at the WTO.

On domestic agricultural support, Teehankee said the G20, of which the Philippines is a part of, has proposed for an 80 percent cut for the EU, 75 percent cut for the US and 70 percent cut for other developed countries, which are also major subsidizers.

EU indicated agreement or openness to a 70 percent cut and the U.S. was willing to go up to 53 percent.

"Right now the gap is not so wide, a 10 percentage points for EU and 22 percentage points for U.S.," Teehankee noted.

In terms of the AMS (aggregate measure of support), Teehankee said that developing countries have proposed an 80 percent cut for the EU, 70 percent cut for the U.S. and 60 percent cut for Japan. The U.S. has offered a 60 percent reduction, Teehankee said.

"At least we have the makings of the narrowing of the gap. In the domestic support, there are some gaps. Perhaps, we can agree in Hong Kong to narrow the gap or arrive at a compromise or post Hong Kong through an agreement in Hong Kong on steps that can be taken after Hong Kong," he said.

Teehankee further said that even without the Hong Kong agreement yet, the cuts are approaching higher levels based on the demands on more balanced negotiations and the gaps are narrowing meaning the demands for reduction are at least being acknowledge though not yet at the ideal level being sought.

"At least, it is all open and transparent," Teehankee noted. …