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PHL seeks extension of protection on rice

By goGreen | October 11, 2011
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THE government is seeking the extension of protection on rice traded under the World Trade Organization (WTO), which expires in June 2012.

Sources privy to negotiations disclosed that Manila notified the WTO of its request to extend the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice two months ago. The QR has allowed the Philippines to limit the volume of rice that can be imported by the government every year, preventing a possible influx of cheap imported rice.

But National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Angelito Banayo said the Philippines has yet to file the notification with the WTO. “We [can] file the notification 10 days before the meeting of the WTO Committee on Agriculture on November 17 in Geneva,” said Banayo in a telephone interview.

Banayo, who heads a technical working group on rice QR, disclosed that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has already informed President Aquino in a memorandum that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is keen on extending the QR for another three years, or until 2015.

He said he needed to consult with the Philippine Permanent Mission to the WTO in Geneva and the agricultural attaché to determine how best to pursue the negotiations and what process should be observed in undertaking the negotiations.

The extension of the QR on rice was one of the issues taken up by the members of the NFA Council on

Monday. The council also had preliminary discussions about rice imports for next year. The government may release the final figures on rice imports next month.

Earlier, Banayo said the Philippines might hold “informal talks” with the WTO members that negotiated with the Philippines when the QR expired in 2005. They were the United States, China, India, Argentina, Pakistan, Egypt, Canada, Australia and Thailand.

Besides increasing the minimum access volume (MAV) for rice as a concession, a DA official earlier said the Philippines had to allow trading partners access to its wine and milk markets.

In exchange for extending the QR until 2012, the Philippines agreed to increase its MAV for rice to 350,000 metric tons. MAV refers to the minimum volume of farm produce, which it will allow to enter into the Philippines at reduced tariffs.

The Philippines also reduced tariff on rice to 40 percent from 50 percent in 2007.

The Philippines filed its intention to extend the QR on rice in March 2004 as it was set to expire in June 2005. Extensive negotiations for it followed, with Manila holding discussions with nine countries, which signified their intention to negotiate the request.

The Philippines obtained formal approval from the WTO to extend the QR in December 2006.

The government is pushing for the extension of the QR citing the need to prepare Filipino farmers for international trade and to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013.

SOURCE: Business Mirror

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