NGOs accuse Lamy of pressuring govt

Original Publication Date: 
22 February, 2007

Peasant groups have accused visiting World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy of trying to pressure the Philippine government to change its position on delayed global trade talks. In a briefing, Rice Watch and Action (R1) and other coalition of nongovernment organizations in the agriculture sector said Lamy should stop acting as spokesman for the United States and European Union to pressure the government to surrender its domestic interest in the global trade negotiations.

"We warn President Arroyo and her trade negotiators against committing unjust trade deals with Lamy only to ensure that WTO's Doha round negotiations will continue," the group told reporters Thursday.

During the briefing, Walden Bello, University of the Philippines professor, expressed grave concern over Lamy's possible move to carry out a divide-and-rule tactic in softening the Philippine and Indonesian positions on special products (SP) and special safeguard mechanism (SSM).

"SP and SSM are the only possible relief for rural industries incapable of competing under a full-blown trade liberalization," Bello said.

In WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration December in 2005, the Philippines is allowed specified number of agricultural SP with zero or minimum tariff reduction The SSM, meanwhile, allows the country to implement safety nets for local farmers against increased volume of imports and distorted prices.

A group of developing countries (G33) pushed for SP and SSM and succeeded in including it in the 2005 declaration. Earlier, Lamy warned that developing countries could face "disastrous" consequences if the faltering talks on the Doha round fail to make progress.

"They would be much better off with the tariff and subsidy cuts already tabled in global trade talks," Lamy said. He flew in from Indonesia Thursday and is scheduled to meet today with President Arroyo together with Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Trade Secretary Peter Favila at Malaca