The Philippines moves a step closer in the negotiation for the extension of its special treatment for rice as China, India and Indonesia have unequivocally endorsed the continuation of the quantitative restriction for the next five years, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Wednesday.
Rice is the only commodity in the Philippines that enjoys special treatment in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which excluded the same from agriculture liberalization.
DA Assistant Secretary Romeo Recide, chief negotiator of the Philippines, explained that the outcome of WTO Council on Trade in Goods (CTG) has reinvigorated and boosted the country’s efforts in pushing the initiative into positive conclusion by early next year.
Australia, China, India, Indonesia, El Salvador, Pakistan, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam are the interested members that are in negotiation with the Philippines.
Indonesia, the European Union, Japan and South Korea—while in full support of the initiative—have expressed interest given that this is the first of its kind in the WTO.
In the CTG, India strongly voiced out that “since rice is a commodity that has direct linkages to food security, livelihood security and rural development needs of millions in developing countries, the issue [of the Philippines]is of outmost importance.”
National Food Administration Administrator Orlan Calayag, adviser to the negotiating panel, said they were expecting to gain approval and endorsement of the CTG as the last minute negotiations in Geneva with Australia, Canada, and US – all with sensitive “non-rice” demands – were progressing and closing gaps speedily, until the talks with the US stalled due to lack of time and flexibility with the recent US government shutdown.
Thailand, while expressing concern, said that it is still feasible for both sides to conclude the bilateral negotiations, including, among others, the issue of Minimum Market Access in rice, and it expects Bangkok and Manila to meet and strive to reach a satisfactory conclusion as soon as possible.
The CTG noted the discussions and agreed to revert the matter in its next regular meeting in March.
Earlier, the government said that it expects to conclude by October this year the negotiations for the extension of the country’s QR on rice.
Manila has been consistently lobbying with its Southeast Asian neighbors and other major trade partners, citing the need to prepare Filipino farmers for international trade and to achieve rice self-sufficiency.