In its third quarter meeting on July 12, 2022, the Committee on International Trade discussed the outcomes of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva on June 12-17, 2022.

Ministers, representing WTO’s 164 members, reviewed the multilateral trading system and made statements for taking action on the future efforts of WTO.

The Department of Industry (DTI) reported the MC12 Decisions and Declarations on Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, Agriculture and Food Security, Electronic Commerce Work Programme and Moratorium, and WTO’s Response to the Pandemic and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Waiver.

“For MC12, the Philippines made it clear that it would like to secure complete outcomes, preferably decisions to curb harmful fisheries subsidies, to protect the interest of small fisherfolks. It also ensured the country’s rights and gains under international law as well as pursued agricultural reforms that are in line with our objectives in the rural development agenda”, said DTI Assistant Director Marie Sherylyn Aquia.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Cheryl Marie Natividad-Caballero also expressed her appreciation on the MC12 outcomes, particularly on the fisheries subsidies agreement, saying that this puts Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing into a stronger perspective.

“This is an opportune time for the Philippines to really bring together the best people to assess, analyze and plan out how we can make this platform (MC12) beneficial to us, as an archipelagic nation,” she added.

While interim CIT Chairperson Dr. Ernesto Ordoñez also commended the Philippine Delegation’s efforts on the MC12, he stressed the importance of conducting stakeholder consultations prior to these international trade negotiations.

Given this, Dr. Ordoñez recommended the creation of a CIT Sub-Committee on Trade Agreements that will pursue active involvement in international trade conferences/negotiations.

Aside from the MC12 outcomes, the Committee also discussed updates on the importation of fish and fishery/aquatic products under the Fisheries Administrative Order No. 195 s. 1999, otherwise known as the Establishing Rules and Regulations Governing Importation of Fresh/Chilled/Frozen and Fishery Aquatic Products.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported that a total of 153,284 metric tons of fish and fishery/aquatic products were imported from January to June 2022, with skipjack tuna as the top imported species, followed by mackerel and squid.

BFAR also informed the body that a total of 8,547 Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearances were issued during the same period. 

On the other hand, Fisher Farms, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Imelda Madarang raised an issue on exportation, involving Saudi Arabia’s temporary ban on Philippine fishery products entering its lands.

She informed the Committee that the issue remained unresolved since May 2019 but continuous coordination is being made with DA and DTI Attaches as well as BFAR, DA-International Affairs Division (IAD) and the Export Development Council-Networking Committee on Agri Policy.

“From what I understand, it was first a ban on fishery products and then it spread into a ban on poultry products. And now from what we heard, all imports from the Philippines have already been banned”, Madarang added.

Agri-Industrialization Development Program Director Jerome Bunyi reassured the Committee that the concern will be properly discussed with the DA Agriculture Attache in Dubai for appropriate response and action. He also guaranteed close cooperation with Madarang and DA-IAD to gather sufficient information regarding the matter. | JCL