SINAG warns DTI Sec Lopez vs new Pacific trade deal
A group of farm and fish producers, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), has cautioned Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez against pushing for the Philippines’ membership in the Trans Pacific Partnership, saying it would be detrimental to the agriculture sector.
TPP is an agreement among 12 economies in the Asia Pacific spearheaded by the United States.
“As far as the agriculture sector is concerned, it is at the losing end of this TPP deal,” SINAG said in a statement. “If the country would join the TPP, all existing tariff lines, our last line of defense against the deluge of unwanted agricultural imports, would flood our local markets.”
In the TPP, most, if not all of the existing tariffs and duties applied on the trade between TPP members will be eliminated, SINAG said.
At present, imports of staple food products such as rice, corn, and pork are slapped tariffs of 35 to 40 percent. Even with the high duties, local producers still have a difficult time competing against imported produce because of poor infrastructure. At zero tariffs, local producers will not stand a chance.
“We are unaware of any consultation conducted by Mr. Lopez with the agriculture industry given the potential disastrous impact to the rural sector of the country’s enlistment to the TPP,” said SINAG Chair Rosendo Go.
Secretary Ramon Lopez was quoted as saying that the electronics, automotives and garment industries are to benefit from TPP.
“Granting that these industries will benefit, eh paano naman ang mas nakakarami pang mga sektor? Under TPP, you cannot unilaterally choose a sector that will join and will not join; it is the entire local economy that will be under the TPP,” So added.
TPP countries are already important export markets for the U.S. meat industry and a new trade agreement like the TPP would put those exports into overdrive.
Quoting numbers from the US Trade Representative, SINAG said the U.S. exported more than $58 billion in food and agricultural exports to TPP countries in 2013 and accounted for 72 percent of its total agricultural exports.
“The USTR is even boasting that these numbers would increase dramatically with the elimination of tariffs under TPP,” SINAG said.
SINAG said Philippine backyard growers and small producers cannot compete against the imports at zero tariffs.
“Landed cost of pork imports from the US or Canada is as low as P60-80/kilo. At zero per cent tariff, how can local producers compete when our cost of producing pork is already at P90-95/kilo,” SINAG said.