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US backs Philippines on rice import curbs
Publication Date : 30-04-2014
The United States has expressed support for the Philippines’ pending request at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the extension of restrictions on the volume of milled rice importation until 2017.
Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala on Tuesday told reporters that negotiations with the United States had practically wrapped up as one of the world’s largest rice exporter had no more issues with the Philippines’ continued imposition of quantitative restrictions (QR).
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, both governments intended to finalise by June 1 a letter exchange to formalise the agreement.
“There will be a special session [of the WTO’s committee of trade on goods] and we will inform [the body] of this development,” Alcala said.
Last March, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Romeo Recide said in an interview that the negotiating team expected to wrap up this month talks on the QRs, which were supposed to have expired in 2012 amid international efforts to break down barriers to free trade.
However, the Philippines was able to engage its trading partners in talks for an extension of five years to buy time for the domestic industry to be more competitive and for the country to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
Recide, who is co-lead negotiator for the Philippines, explained that the extension took effect while negotiations were pending.
In 2013, China, India and Indonesia approved the continuing implementation of the quotas. With the US already supporting the extension, negotiations are still ongoing with Australia, Canada and Thailand.
As for Vietnam, a usual supplier of milled rice to the Philippines, Manila and Hanoi has a standing procurement agreement.
“We are very positive that we will acquire consensus with interested countries,” Recide said. “This will allow us to operate under a new quantitative restriction extension.”
The government has pushed back to end-2015 its goal for self-sufficiency in rice production even as agriculture officials renew efforts this year.
Based on the Philippines’ commitments related to global trade, the country must allow imports of at least 350,000 metric tonnes of milled rice every year.