DOHA round. GMA. Shinzo Abe. Comfort Women.

My warm regards to US educated Philippine President Gloria Arroyo for taking the cudgels of the developing states and hitting at the US for its discriminatory trade policies. She's always been known as a US ally, owing to her close association with Georgetown University classmate Bill Clinton. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Arroyo was also one of President Bush's strongest supporters.

Let's enjoy her some portions of her yesterday's speech in Japan.

Philippine Star:
“When trade served their interests, it was the green light. Now that they might have to give up certain subsidies or markets, the yellow light of caution is up,” Mrs. Arroyo said of rich nations.

Philippine Daily Inquirer:
"The Doha Round was called the development round because it was supposed to bring the benefits of the global trading system to developing countries, she said at the opening of the 13th Future of Asia conference here.

Arroyo said the developed countries let the developing countries down when, realizing they would have to give up their subsidies or markets, they put up the “yellow light of caution” in the Doha Round.

“We will not just wait around. We aim to go full speed ahead in the Philippines and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] to strengthen our economic ties, regardless of what Doha does or does not do,” she said.

Arroyo, the chairperson of ASEAN’s revolving leadership this year, was the keynote speaker at the forum that gathers the region’s leaders to discuss their vision of an emerging East Asian community."

In other developments, radio reports quoted Pres. Arroyo of being confident that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will be ratified by the Philippine Senate after PM Abe assured her that Japan will not be dumping toxic wastes into the Philippines. In the past, several containers from Japan were found by Philippine Customs officials to contain toxic materials (such as hospital wastes). A bigger number was feared to have successfully been dumped (through the years) into the country.


"Reports quoting Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo Siazon had said that a side agreement to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) would likely be signed to make the deal more acceptable.

Arroyo submitted the agreement to the Senate late last year for ratification.

Groups opposed to the agreement wanted scrapped a provision that they alleged would allow Japan to dump its wastes on Philippine soil. In return, Japan will open its market to Philippine nurses."

I have a couple of issues here. A free trade agreement with Japan exposes the Philippines to several non trade tariff barriers. Japan can easily stall the prequalification of Philippine agricultural commodities and stop it from entering the Japanese market. A similar scenario happened when Australian authorities strongly refused entry to Philippine mangoes due to some alleged safety issues. An angry Philippine agricultural secretary countered by banning the importation of Australian beef. At the end of the day, Australia softened.

Another issue that should have been raised is Japan's continuous moves to water down and eventually erase its ugly role in the second world war. In a trade agreement that will result in the entry of more Japanese goods into the country, a simple apology to the comfort women should be a minor thing to ask.

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