Arroyo Scores Trade Protectionism
Manila Bulletin

President Gloria Arroyo yesterday scored developed countries for blocking exports from developing countries while lecturing them on the need to open their own markets.

Doubt would be cast on the benefits of trade liberalization if developed countries do not act to make it easier for poorer countries to trade with them, Arroyo said in a speech to the chambers of commerce of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations).

"It does not help any when developed countries insist on maintaining protectionist barriers against products of interest to developing countries like the Philippines and many other ASEAN countries," said Arroyo.

"While the developed countries take every opportunity to lecture us on the virtues of a market-driven economy, hundreds of billions of dollars support their farm production."

She cited environmental and health standards of developed countries which are "onerous and excessive," and gave as an example standards imposed by Australia which blocks imports of Philippine bananas and mangoes.

Despite her criticism, Arroyo said she was still committed to expanded trade and urged the ASEAN countries to further integrate their economies under the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA.)

Under AFTA, the founding six ASEAN members will cut tariffs on trade in most products to a maximum of five percent by next year, while less developed members will be given extra time to adjust.

"We cannot just generate investments unless we become part of a larger, integrated regional market," Arroyo said, adding this was the only way the region could compete with the global trade giants.

But she also said AFTA still had a long way to go before becoming an effective means for strengthening the region's competitive position.

ASEAN must also start lowering non-tariff barriers between its members such as product standards. It must also liberalize financial services, telecommunications, construction, air and maritime transport and tourism.

Arroyo also said ASEAN trade polices should recognise differences in development between countries such as the Philippines and wealthy Singapore.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam as well as the Philippines. (AFP)

Manila Bulletin, July 6, 2002
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