Ambassador Esteban Conejos, Jr. tackles the matter on the country’s rice QR in one of the meetings of NSC-CIT at PCAF Conference Room in Quezon City. In photo, from left, DA-Chief of Staff Atty. Dennis Guerrero and NSC-CIT Chairperson Raul Montemayor.

For continuity in handling the forthcoming discussions on the Philippine’s rice quantitative restriction (QR) in World Trade Organization (WTO), National Sectoral Committee – Committee on International Trade (NSC-CIT) members appealed for Ambassador Esteban Conejos, Jr.’s retention as the permanent representative of the Philippines to the WTO.

Amb. Conejos was appointed as the permanent representative of the Philippine Permanent Mission to the WTO by the former President Benigno S. Aquino III on July 2012 and has been reappointed two years further after his first term expires.

As the new administration comes, Amb. Conejos has been recalled to the Philippines from its base in Geneva, Switzerland effective June 30, 2016.

The recall of Amb. Conejos crippled the operations of the Philippine Mission to the WTO in Geneva because of the absence of our country’s representative in significant meetings and negotiations with other parties particularly to the rice QR.

QR is a trade restriction placed on the amount of goods that can be imported into a country and this protects the price of domestically produced goods or to decrease or eliminate a trade deficit.

The Philippines has secured a waiver on its WTO obligation to tariffy rice in 2014. Currently, it was allowed to retain the rice QR until June 30, 2017.

To address the issue of country’s rice QR and absence of representative to WTO, series of meetings have been conducted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) – CIT.

Aside from Amb. Conejos, present in the meetings were Charge d’ Affaires to the WTO, Geneva, Switzerland Consul Ryan Gener; Philippine Agricultural Attaché to Geneva, Switzerland Jerome Bunyi; Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Segfredo Serrano; former DA Chief of Staff Atty. Dennis Guerrero; NSC-CIT Chairperson Raul Montemayor; PCAF employees; members of the CIT and chairpersons of each NSCs.

After thorough discussions, the CIT members passed a resolution requesting the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to endorse to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. and President Rodrigo Duterte to retain Amb. Conejos as the country’s permanent representative to the WTO.

According to the resolution signed by NSC-CIT chairperson Raul Montemayor, Amb. Conejos is in the best position to handle the upcoming discussions on the rice QR because he has been consistently involved in various activities in the WTO and proficiently developed effective working relationships with WTO member.

“Philippine Mission, headed by Amb. Conejos, is already doing the groundwork for the negotiations involving either the lifting of the QR by 2017 or extension of the waiver,” the CIT members added in the resolution.

It also stated that it may take a while before a new ambassador can be appointed to the WTO and it would even take more time for the newly appointed ambassador to understand the complexity of the issues being discussed in the WTO.