NGO pushes for review of Philippines’ external trade policies

Published by rudy Date posted on March 31, 2009

FAIR Trade Alliance called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to review the country’s current external trade policies in light of the global slowdown.

In a statement, FairTrade said Manila’s appeal to fellow-members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to postpone full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Agreement-Common Effective Preferential Tariffs (AFTA-CEPT) should be pursued given the “threat posed by rising imports on a very open Philippine economy.”

Under the AFTA-CEPT, tariffs on goods traded among Asean members should be slashed to between 0 percent and 5 percent by next year.

“Although it comes rather late, this move of the DTI Secretary is still a welcome move as it departs from the usual stance taken by key DTI officials that the wholesale and unqualified economic liberalization is good for the country and that all liberalization commitments should be complied with no matter how debilitating for the local industries,” the non-government organization said.

It said the government can do much more to aid local industries and boost the domestic economy by undertaking a comprehensive review of Philippine trade policies in the last 30 years.

FairTrade said this crisis period is high time to reassess whether liberalization has benefited or worsened the country’s economic condition. “What are the explanations for the continuing massive poverty, massive unemployment and massive out migration in the Philippines?”

“The review should lead to the adoption of bold but necessary adjustment measures to help shape a fair and balanced integration of the national economy with the global market,” FairTrade said.

“The review of our trade policy must not only cover the country’s AFTA-CEPT commitments. Since the WTO [World Trade Organization] and bilateral agreements are greatly entangled with each other,[Philippine] commitments in these agreements must also be reviewed,” the NGO said.

FairTrade also said the government’s stimulus package should be intended to bolster local industries and agriculture, as is being done in other countries now.

“The Philippine Economy Resiliency Plan (PERP) being floated by the government is vague until now on how it will stimulate our economy. But it can have some sense if the DTI will include in the PERP some trade adjustment measures that will help our industries and agriculture out of the crisis,” FairTrade said.

FairTrade also advised the government to take advantage of the domestic market, which is composed of 90 million consumers, to develop local industries, by coming up with industrial development plans and programs. –Ben Arnold O. De Vera, Reporter, Manila Times

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