No remarkable growth for Philippines, says SINAG chair

By November 14, 2021Business

TWENTY-seven years into the World Trade Organization (WTO), there is no promised remarkable growth under a liberalized trading regime, according to a leading agricultural group in the country, adding that the purported gains in trade, production output and employment never materialized.

Samahan ng Industriyang Agrikultura (SINAG) Chairman Rosendo So said, not only did the WTO has made Philippines into a net food importing country, but “WTO has undermined our food security, our food sovereignty where we decide our own agriculture and food policy”.

He said the promised market access in developed countries did not materialize as the WTO really intended to expand the market opportunities for the big players such as the US and EU, and lately China and the other members of the G8.

He said the country is in worse situation today because the agriculture department pushed for the increase of import allocation of agricultural products and railroaded the reduction of tariff for imported agricultural products.

He said the very people that pushed for the country’s accession to the GATT WTO (General Agreements of Tariffs and Trade – World Trade Organization) in 1994, are the same cast of characters pushing for our accession to the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership)”.

They were firm and agitated with a very optimistic computation of the benefits that could be derived from joining the WTO, such as : increase in annual agricultural export earnings by at least P3.4 billion; increase in the annual gross value added of agriculture by P60B; creation of an additional 500,000 jobs annually; and, improving balance of trade in agricultural products.

“These “experts” pushed our government to reduce our domestic support to agriculture when even under the WTO rules, the government is not required to reduce its domestic support to agriculture as its current levels of subsidies fall below the minimum of 10% of the value of production,” he added.

Agriculture support, he said, was removed in the country while most countries added support for the farmers and agricultural industry, i.e., Thailand and Indonesia, strengthened further public support for the agriculture sector.

Instead of pushing for RCEP, he said the government should work for a permanent shift in the agriculture strategy for a sustainable, localized food production; make food self-sufficiency and significant rural livelihood opportunities as the starting point of the country’s food and agriculture program; work on the viability of the agriculture industry as the true engine of national development and real economic growth; and, strive for the development of the agriculture sector as the real impetus in nation building.

So emphasized that no country has ever developed, without first developing its agriculture sector to produce staples and the necessary raw materials, beyond what the country needs. (Eva Visperas)

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