Press Release
May 9, 2008

Create int'l tribunals to settle disputes in agri trade -- Angara

Senator Edgardo J. Angara today said international tribunals should be created to speedily settle lingering disputes in agricultural trade and bring relief to developing countries such as the Philippines that have been pushed out of the global food trade - and made extremely vulnerable to food shortages - by the protectionist policies of wealthy countries.

Angara said that the creation of "Nurembergs of Fair Trade" is an urgent global imperative because every country is now "prosecutor, judge and jury" of its trade policies and the policies are often based on narrow and prejudiced assessments.

The Nuremberg Tribunals tried the abuses of the Nazis and other war criminals after the war.

"There must be a system of international tribunals to move out the deliberations out of the protectionist environment and ascertain the weight of evidence. The current system, where each of the country sets its own standards and does is own assessment is unacceptable," he said.

Angara first broached the idea of setting up international tribunals on trade at a United Nations forum on sustainable development in New York City a few days back.

Angara said that the World Trade Organization, the global body on trade, cannot speedily settle the disputes. He said that the very same rules written by the WTO, all put in place to enhance free trade, have even abetted inequities in agricultural trade.

Angara said that the protectionist policies of rich countries have effectively led to the control of 70 per cent of the global food trade by these countries. Developing nations have been left out by the trade barriers erected by the rich nations through massive subsidies to their farmers and tariff and non-tariff barriers, he added.

In 2005 alone, the export and domestic subsidies pumped by the OECD countries into their farming sectors totaled US$385.2 billion, which is twice the gross national product of the Philippines in 2007.

Angara said that despite the efforts of the WTO to reduce tariffs to allow the easy entry of products from developing countries into the rich ones, rich countries have been employing schemes and tricks to make their tariffs high and forbidding.

Some products are applied tariff rates as high as 900 per cent by applying tariff peaks. The practice to apply high tariffs on processed goods is also another scheme devised to force exporters from developing countries to sell raw materials with no value-added, said Angara.

Angara said that the long-drawn battle being waged by the Philippines to export tropical fruits to Australia demonstrates the determination of rich nations to use quarantine standards and technical , non-tariff barriers to restrict agricultural exports from the developing world.

"The current trade between the Philippines and Australia highlight this point clearly. For decades, Australia has effectively prevented Philippine export products, particularly mangoes, bananas and pineapples by applying stringent and unreasonable quarantine and phyto-sanitary standards," said Angara.

In his talk before the UN, Angara urged the developed economies to reduce their domestic subsidies and eliminate their export subsidies.

He asked these countries to stop employing baseless quarantine , health and phyto-sanitary standards to restrict the entry of agricultural products from the developing countries.

Angara said that the tricks and schemes devised by developed countries to retain their tariff walls on agricultural products should also be scrapped to help ease the trade imbalances between the rich and developing countries.

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