Even as they face off over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, the Philippines and China have agreed to pursue talks on a special safeguard for rice to be included in a global trade pact being negotiated in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Beijing and Manila have agreed to pursue the talks on a special arrangement on the staple in the spirit of mutual respect and understanding and the observance of fair and equitable principles in the WTO.
The arrangement is basically an agreement between exporting and importing countries to exempt rice from substantial reductions in tariffs.
This special treatment for sensitive goods like rice is meant to give a WTO member enough time to prepare its affected sector for competition from imports.
The Philippines has asked the WTO about its intention to start talks on extending its rice import quota as part of efforts to attain self-sufficiency in the grain by 2013.
The government is seeking a five-year extension of the import quotas, or quantitative restrictions, approved by the WTO in 2006, under which the Philippines granted importers a minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons subject to a 40-percent duty. Imports in excess of the MAV, meanwhile, are subjected to a 50-percent rate.
The Philippines is negotiating with eight countries—the United States, Australia, Canada, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and El Salvador—for support for the extension it is seeking in exchange for increased access for a number of products.
“China indicated understanding of the Philippines’ position in food security and competitiveness of its rice farmers. The Philippines took note of China’s desire for an increase in market access,” the DFA said.
National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Angelito Banayo met with Chinese commerce ministry officials in Beijing on April 26.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Wednesday said the Philippines will in the next three weeks choose either Cambodia, Thailand or Vietnam to supply up to 120,000 tons of rice it needs to boost its buffer stocks.
The NFA said last month it would import the rice to deepen its reserves before the lean harvest season begins in July, with rice producers in its Southeast Asian neighbors eagerly awaiting a decision.
The Philippines usually buys about three-quarters of its annual rice imports from the world’s No. 2 exporter, Vietnam, and small volumes from the biggest seller, Thailand. Tina G. Santos and Reuters