Creation of Philippine trade negotiating arm

The government would soon have a permanent trade negotiating arm with the signing of a Senate committee report that helps facilitate the creation of a Philippine Trade Representative office.

A bill could be adopted by the Senators in the 15th Congress, cutting the long, tedious law-making process at least in the Senate, according to a source at the Senate technical staff.

Those who have been pushing for a permanent trade negotiating office endorse the current version already for adoption if this version meets their position. This will fasttrack the process.

Creation of such an office snowballed during the Arroyo administration when stakeholders saw that the government has had a piecemeal approach to negotiating trade agreements handled by different offices in government.

Negotiations on agricultural trade was led by the Department of Agriculture. Talks on Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) was handled by the Bureau of International Trade Relations (BITR) under the Department of Trade and Industry while talks on trade in services was put on the laps of the National Economic Development Authority.

An ideal picture of the country’s trade policy and negotiation process and structure was also presented by Atty. Dorotea Lazaro, a key expert of the EU Trade Related Technical  Assistance project, in the same meeting.

The framework was seen as comprehensive and one that proposed the setting up of a permanent Philippine Trade Representative Office patterned after the permanent negotiating offices of the United States and the European Union.

The framework covered the whole negotiating process from background research and determination of trade policy to post-negotiations support services.