In the light of the food crisis, we must actually be more circumspect with regard to how the deal will have an impact to our agriculture sector especially our small farmers and fisherfolks. As it is, the US will not bring down their subsidies to significant levels and the tariff protection that we want to have in case of import surges is practically not there. Imagine, having to see almost an increase by 40% of imports just to impose higher tariffs, and that’s pre-Doha bound rates and they want to exclude in the reckoning of the import volumes those that came in via regional and bilateral trading arrangements. It will definitely be hard to breach it.
I do not see any clear gains for NAMA too and our fishery sector which is part of NAMA would definitely lose out.
Besides, the US’s mandate to negotiate is nebulous with no Fast Track Authority to negotiate to speak of, and a highly protective US Farm Bill hanging like a Democles ‘ sword.
In the home front, we are not clear with our negotiating position anyway. So I think it’s a blessing in disguise. But we better pass the creation of a trade representative office soon otherwise we lose out in the next round.
I call on our negotiators though to be careful in entering into new bilateral and regional deals in the meantime until we see a clear game plan for us. I am scared of what’s on the table with regard to JPEPA. Let’s not do it blindly.