GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 September) – The national government will work for the reduction of relatively high tariff rates imposed by the European Union and the United States on tuna products coming from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.
Former Senator Manuel Roxas II, who represented President Benigno Simeon Aquino III at the 12th National Tuna Congress here, said the Aquino administration is presently exploring various available mechanisms that will help facilitate fresh negotiations with trade representatives of the two major tuna markets.
“We’ll continue the fight for preferential access of our tuna products, especially the canned tuna, in the EU and the US. This will be pursued as a policy of the present administration,” Roxas said.
He hinted that the government is keen on utilizing the World Trade Organization mechanism and other venues to resolve the trade barriers facing the tuna industry.
The Philippines’ canned tuna exports to the EU is currently subject to 24-percent tariff, a rate deemed very disadvantageous to the tuna industry as some of its export rivals such as the African, Caribbean and the Pacific Group of States (ACP) and Andean countries have been
enjoying a zero-percent tariff rate.
In the United States, which slaps exports duties ranging from 6% to 35% for tuna products from the Philippines, the government had lobbied for preferential treatment for tuna similar to the duty-free access being enjoyed by Andean countries that includes Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Roxas, who led the Philippine negotiating team at the WTO meetings in Doha, Qatar in 2001, said the government is looking at engagements similar to the successful negotiations with the EU then that later led to the lowering by at least 50% of the country’s canned tuna exports to the European market.
The former trade and industry chief said they were able to convince then EU trade envoy Pascal Lamy to cut by half the 24-percent tariff imposed on canned tuna products from the Philippines and fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states Thailand and Indonesia.
But EU’s five-year Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) scheme, which allowed the Philippines to export 9,000 metric tons of canned tuna at a 12-percent tariff, ended in June 2008 and appeals for its extension have not progressed.
“The Aquino administration is poised to lead these negotiations to ensure that our interests are protected in the international markets,” he said.
The country’s tuna industry, which is mainly based in this city, accounts for at least US$ 380 million in annual export receipts and is considered among the top players in the international tuna market.
Tuna landings in this city average at 400,000 metric tons (MT) annually around 85% of which are exported to the EU, Japan, US and other top tuna markets.
The EU imports 40% or around 64,000 MT of the country’s fresh and canned tuna exports, which are mainly produced by six tuna canneries based in the city.(Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)