Press Releases

Salceda wants government to protect local farmers from “downsides” of global trade, via more market access, investments in agri

January 5th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) says that although the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement would “create benefits for key industrial sectors, the agricultural sector still needs infusions of domestic and public investment in order to compete effectively with the world.”

RCEP was signed in November 2020 by the Philippines along with the other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – and ASEAN trade partners Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

RCEP is expected to simplify customs and trade procedures among member countries and help facilitate trade and economic exchange.

“I’m a fan of global trade. Just ask the many hundreds of thousands of Filipino seafarers who have found employment in carrying trade in goods. Or the many workers in export-oriented enterprises. Trade also appears to have a positive link with tourism, which remains a key Philippine industry despite the pandemic. So, I don’t deny the benefits that RCEP could provide,” Salceda said.

Salceda however cautioned that “the DTI has to have a plan for market access to Philippine goods, especially agricultural goods, if our farmers are to compete with the world. I have always insisted on the role of the DTI as market facilitator for Philippine agriculture.”

“We also have to invest in crops where we possess some comparative advantages. Some provinces can compete in rice and corn, but we should also invest in our traditional crop exports of coconut, bananas, pineapples, and abaca, to ensure that we can expand markets for these products. We should also protect them from diseases, since these crops tend to be more sensitive to pests,” Salceda added.

Salceda also says that he will push for a review of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, to see whether current programs are resulting to higher yields or cheaper production costs, which he says “was the whole point of the program.”

“The ACEF was established by RA 8178 when we moved all agricultural products, except rice, away from the quantitative restriction or QR regime. We extended its implementation with RA 10848, and a periodic review is probably due, and is also mandated by law. I would like to see the impact of ACEF on crop competitiveness while we discuss ratifying RCEP.”

“Protecting agriculture while opening other sectors is not new. Even European countries in the supposedly free trade zone of the European Union impose heavy protections on agriculture. It’s also a labor issue, because we have more farmers as a share of the labor force, than agriculture contributes as a share of the economy.”

“Historically, free trade displaces farm labor. The industrial revolution was expedited by the corn laws, which reduced tariffs on wheat in England and which thus resulted in farm work displacement, making more free hands available for industrial work.”

“So, ultimately, the two concerns that we have to discuss as we ratify RCEP are: do we have the necessary mitigating measures to protect farmers from the downsides of global trade, and are our industries prepared to take in displaced farm work? If the answer to both is yes, then RCEP excellent opportunity that we should not miss,” Salceda concluded. (end)

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