PGMA bats for enhancing convergence of trade agreements in Asia-Pacific region
Manila (20 September) -- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday said she believes in the power of global trading system to alleviate poverty and modernize nations through market forces.
In her speech at the High Level Dialogue on Mobilizing Aid for Trade: Focus on Asia-Pacific held at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters in Ortigas, Pasig City, the President said "we believe in strong global engagement for our country and our people to grow our economy, ensure peace and security and lift our nation out of poverty."
But, she said, "that does not mean we believe that countries like the Philippines are ready to compete head-to-head today in every sector, but it does mean that we cannot afford to be afraid of globalization."
President Arroyo said the multilateral trading system, through the Doha Round, remains the best option to address poverty and improve standards of living around the world through an agreed set of international trade rules.
It also offers a major opportunity to put in place internationally significant reforms and reductions in trade-distorting domestic support, create meaningful and substantial market access in agriculture, industrial goods and services, and introduce improved rules and trade facilitation arrangements at the World Trade Organization (WTO), she said.
To make the Doha Round truly a Development Round as it is being billed, the President said there must be greater coherence or convergence of policies among international development institutions (such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, ADB, WTO), so that trade is mainstreamed in the development agenda and therefore capacity building can be focused and targeted.
She also emphasized the need for a review on the special and differential treatment "beyond just the phasing of commitments but also capacity building and sufficient flexibility to pursue domestic development goals."
"But let me be clear: even as we work tirelessly to move the talks forward, we are not going to stand by and do nothing. For us, it is full speed ahead, preferably with Doha, but full speed nevertheless," the President said.
"We recognize that fragmentation of the multilateral trading system into trading blocs will result in a more complex set of trade rules incompatible and detrimental to the interests of developing country members. But meanwhile, with a hope that there will be a successful conclusion to the Doha Round, we are maximizing the economic opportunities provided under bilateral and regional free trade agreements if only to complement efforts under the multilateral trading system," she added.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy earlier said "A successful Doha agreement would send a much-needed message of confidence to governments, economic agents and to the public. It would show that we remain committed to open markets and multilateral rules, and that the foundations of the global economy are reinforced."
He warned that without a breakthrough soon, the Doha drive could be put on ice for years or until countries muster the political will to complete it.
"If we are to conclude these negotiations in the near future, as the WTO members have pledged to do, we will need to make significant progress as soon as possible in the crucial areas of agriculture subsidies, tariffs on agriculture and industrial products," Lamy said.
The WTO is working with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and various U.N. and regional development bodies to determine how to ensure poor countries benefit from a new "Aid for Trade" initiative.
It would also provide the platform for monitoring and regularly reviewing whether Aid for Trade is being adequately funded and that it is delivering the expected results.
The WTO will hold its first global monitoring conference on the initiative on Nov. 20-21 in Geneva. (PNA) [top]