Geneva, Switzerland (17 June 2022) – The Philippines welcomed the first multilateral outcomes at the WTO since the 2015 Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. In its assessment, the Philippine delegation, co-headed by DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo and DA Undersecretary Fermin D. Adriano, noted that the agreements stand to benefit the broad membership, including the Philippines and other developing countries. The Ministerial Conference, originally scheduled to conclude on 15 June 2022, was formally closed after a two-day extension was given to allow Ministers more time to reach consensus on what is now being called the Geneva Package. Prior to MC12, the Philippines had made clear that its objectives were to support an agreement to curb harmful fisheries subsidies while protecting the interests of small and artisanal fisherfolk, pursue agricultural reform that was aligned to with the objectives of the Doha Development Agenda, and provide the necessary policy space to allow access to available technology for diversifying the production of vaccines and therapeutics. Undersecretary Rodolfo underscored that while “MC12 has demonstrated that WTO remains relevant as a global trade regulatory platform, what is even more critical is what the Philippines will do at the national level.”
The Philippines highlighted that the MC12 Geneva Package would help sustain momentum on the following fronts:
Fisheries Subsidies Agreement
The agreement elevated shared values to ensure sustainability of our oceans, specifically to curb overfishing and overcapacity as well as sanctioned illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in a non-discriminatory and transparent regime. It recognized the specific needs of developing and least-developed countries to develop their fishing industry by giving the needed space in providing subsidies, as may be applicable and as stipulated in the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, including the granting of subsidy for disaster relief. The latter is most relevant to the Philippines, considering its high vulnerability to natural disasters due to its geography. Moreover, the Philippines stressed the importance of the agreement’s provisions, inter alia, on technical assistance and capacity building programs, such as the WTO’s new Fisheries Funding Mechanism, and on having no prejudice to the jurisdiction, rights and obligations of Members, arising under international law, including the law of the sea.
TRIPS Vaccine Waiver
WTO members agreed to implement a five (5) year intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, including its ingredients and processes, and will examine a further extension to therapeutics in 6 months. The Philippines will stand to benefit from more affordable vaccines produced domestically or through imports from countries that will utilize the vaccine technology to make generic equivalents. Domestically, the Department of Trade and Industry and Board of Investments will continue to support all avenues to attract more investments into vaccine manufacturing while maintaining close coordination with local pharmaceutical manufacturers in implementing the Vaccine Self-Reliance Program, with support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Members agreed to a Declaration on emergency response to food insecurity, in which the Philippines supported keeping the agri-food trade flow, minimizing trade distortions, and enhancing productivity, trade, availability and affordability of food and inputs. Members further agreed to exempt the World Food Programme (WFP) purchases from export restrictions or export prohibitions. The Philippines benefits from WFP food support, particularly in responding to natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes. A multilateral Declaration on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Challenges was also adopted which would push members to take stronger science-based approaches in assessing the importation trade of food and agricultural products. These modest commitments are a step in the right direction, particularly in focusing on SPS and other barriers to trade, which continue to be a lingering concern with several trading partners that constrain the ability of Filipino companies to export. While the Philippines expressed disappointment at the lack of a work program on agricultural reform, the delegation expressed its commitment to continue advocacies for substantial reduction in trade-distorting domestic support, a permanent solution to public stockholding for food security and for an effective Special Safeguard Mechanism, which are critical food security tools to ensure the resiliency of farmers as well as affordable and accessible food supplies.
E-Commerce Work Program and Moratorium on Electronic Transmissions
WTO members agreed to adopt the Ministerial Decision on the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, reinvigorating the work under this area, and extending the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions until the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13). This Ministerial Decision ensures a stable and predictable digital trading environment not only for big businesses but also for MSMEs, women entrepreneurs, and startups. The moratorium is scheduled to expire on MC13, or 31 March 2024, unless Ministers or the General Council take a decision to extend.
Undersecretary Rodolfo thanked Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary William D. Dar, and the inter-agency team for their guidance and assistance in defending Philippine interests at MC 12. He also recognized the government’s ongoing partnership with civil society and the private sector for their valuable inputs and feedback in developing Philippine positions during this Ministerial Conference.
He emphasized that the Philippines would continue to champion tripartite engagement in ensuring a whole of society approach in developing policy that is citizen centered. He also stressed that upon his return to the Philippines, the crucial work will begin on the domestic front by ensuring that MC12’s outcomes will translate to measures that will directly benefit the Philippine Government’s domestic constituencies. ###