Southeast Asia

WTO approval means Philippines can maintain high rice import duties

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

WTO approval means Philippines can maintain high rice import duties

Related tags Palm oil International trade European union World trade organization Philippines

The Philippines’ special treatment in rice, which allows the country to keep high duties on rice imports, is expected to continue after the World Trade Organisation’s Goods Council approved the country’s waiver request for its extension. 

The draft decision, under which the Philippines will provide minimum market access for rice imports, and establish country-specific quotas, must now be approved by the WTO’s General council before it is adopted.

In a press briefing, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the council is expected to give its approval on the country’s quantitative restriction on rice next month.

Our negotiators have succeeded​,” said Alcala. “This means between now and 2017,we will still have control over rice that will enter the country​.”

Pressure building

An earlier quantitative restriction deal expired in June 2012, after which the Agriculture Department sought a five-year extension of its implementation to buy Filipino farmers time to build their production capability to cope with the increased pressure that that is expected in 2015 with the enforcement of a new free-trade regime within Southeast Asia.

Alcala said the approval of the special restriction on rice entails increasing the current minimum access volume (MAV) and the continued levy of a 40% tariff on imports made within the MAV and tariff of 50% outside of MAV. All imports that would come from ASEAN member-states would be levied a duty of 35%.

Rice is of critical importance to the Philippines, and is the main source of food security for its population. The country first filed its waiver request to the WTO in 2011, and has recently concluded bilateral agreements with other countries with interest in the agreement.

Australia, Indonesia, the United States, China, Vietnam and India supported the Philippine request. Although Thailand concluded negotiations with the Philippines earlier this month, it still has to agree internal procedures, and could go along with forwarding the draft decision to the general council.

The council will review the waiver each year, and at its expiry at the end of June 2017, the importation of rice into the Philippines will be subject to regular customs duties.

Indonesia squabble

Following the approval of the Philippines’ request, the Goods Council meeting also heard concerns by Indonesia about what the country said was the European Union’s unfair treatment of its palm oil exports in the form of excessive anti-dumping duties.

Indonesia also complained of a campaign in the EU against food containing palm oil, saying that the EU’s levies have resulted in a substantial reduction of Indonesian palm oil exports to the bloc. 

However, countering the Southeast Asian nation’s complaints, the EU said its imports of Indonesian palm oil have increased by 70% over the past six years. Its representative added that is the third largest importer of palm oil in the world, and that most of its imports of palm oil enter Europe free of duty.

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