Category Archives: Issue: FTAs

Asian farmers join Korean comrades in Seoul rally

In solidarity with their comrades in Korea, farmers from Indonesia and the Philippines joined the rally of the Korean Advanced Farmers’ Federation (KAFF) and the Women Advanced Farmers’ Federation (WAFF) in Yeouido Park, Seoul, South Korea last September 29, 2010.

Vicente Fabe (PAKISAMA) and Luisita Esmao (LAKAMBINI-PAKISAMA) from the Philippines and Ika Krishnayanti (API) from Indonesia joined around 10,000 farmers and supporters from all over South Korea in the public demonstration.

PAKISAMA, API, KAFF, and WAFF are all members of the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA).

The participants brought different flags, thousand of balloons, straw dolls, posters, banners, and other accessories to help deliver their message to the Korean government.

Farmers belonging to KAFF and WAFF came from each county of Korea, such as Gyeonggi-do, Gangwon-do, Jollebukdo, Jollanam-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Gyeongsangnam-do, Cungceongbuk-do, and Cungceongnam-do.

As the music of KAFF’s marching tune spread in the air, the thousand of colorful balloons were released to the sky.

The event then continued with the speeches of each farmer-leader present. Government representatives also participated in the event and gave their speeches.

The farmers had 3 demands.

First, “the participants demanded the government to keep the price of rice stable,” said Kim Gi Cheol, a member of KAFF.

He explained that the price of rice keeps getting lower and lower each year. The price that they demand is not less than 170,000 Won/package (1 package = 80 kg). But usually, the price is 20,000 Won/package.

“170,000 Won is the minimal price we demand!” added Kim Gi Cheol.

While Korean rice farmers have to pay a lot of money to store the rice in the warehouse when produce surplus during the harvest season, the government does not allow them to export the surplus rice to North Korea, even if it is cheaper.

Second, the farmers were also rallying against the Korea-China FTA that is being negotiated this year. Negotiations on the Korea-US FTA is still in a deadlock.

Third, the farmers were also demanding for more bank credit for agriculture through the agricultural cooperative federation.

(Report and photos by Ika Krishnayanti, API)

Click here for more photos

AFA participates in the Sixth ASEAN People’s Forum

(Photo courtesy of Corinna Araneta Lopa)

The Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) participated in the Sixth ASEAN People’s Forum (APF6), held in Hanoi, Vietnam, last September 24-26, 2010.

The APF6 was aimed at helping strengthen solidarity and cooperation among ASEAN people for a people-oriented ASEAN community that will really be for their benefit.

Carrying the theme “Solidarity and Action for a People-Oriented ASEAN”, the forum was attended by around 700 delegates representing people’s organizations of different sectors from ASEAN countries.

AFA and its members, Viet Nam Farmers’ Union (VNFU) and Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API), co-organized the “Forum Workshop on Peasantry Food Sovereignty and Rural Development”.

Amalia Pulungan and Fadil Kaiom of API spoke about land reform in Indonesia and Vu Le y Voan of VNFU spoke about farmers’ access to market, while AFA played its video entitled “Farmers’ Rights, Farmers’ Lives” during the workshop.

AFA also helped in preparing the workshop report together with Action Aid International and VNFU, while Manh Hung of VNFU moderated the session.

AFA and its members also participated in the workshop entitled “ASEAN FTAS: Boon or Bane to Development and Regional Integration? “

AFA Secretary General Esther Penunia presented AFA’s proposals for a regional agriculture trade agenda in ASEAN during the workshop.

AFA and its members also participated in the workshop entitled “Assessing ASEAN Social Protection Responses to Financial Crisis toward Developing Comprehensive and Sustainable Solution.”

(Photo courtesy of Corinna Araneta Lopa)

Manh Hung of VNFU spoke on the problems and recommendations on international development finance , while Esther Penunia of AFA spoke about the impact of the financial crisis on small scale men and women farmers in SEA countries during the workshop.

Click here for the program of the APF6

Click here for the final statement of the APF6

Click here for other documents and press releases

For more news and information about Asian farmers, go to: http://www.asianfarmers.org

In the News (India): CEPA with Japan lacks transparency: Farmer groups

NEW DELHI: A common platform of several farmers groups, the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements, has charged the Central government with complete lack of transparency on the implications of the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or CEPA with Japan and the inclusion of agriculture on its agenda.

“Such EPAs, like other FTAs, go beyond what cannot be negotiated under the WTO and we are openly opposed to agriculture in the WTO, in EPAs or FTAs,” the Committee has said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Commerce minsiter Anand Sharma and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

Demanding that the full text of the CEPA be discussed with State governments and debated in Parliament first, the Committee has also expressed apprehension that the CEPA could encroach on the rights of farmers as plant breeders and seed consumers as outlined in the PV&FR Act, 2001 (Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001). Japanese seed companies could gain stealthy entry into the already crisis-ridden Indian agriculture sector by way of the CEPA, it said.. .

Read the full story at The Economic Times

In the News (Taiwan): Tariff cuts have no great appeal for tea farmers

A Taiwan-China trade pact that took effect Sunday to pave the way for tariff cuts from next year has not cheered Taiwanese tea farmers, who are more concerned about the rising imports of pesticide-contaminated tea from China into Taiwan.

Although China is Taiwan’s largest tea export market, Lin Yu-ping, one of Taiwan’s many small tea farmers, believes it is unlikely that local farmers will be able to sell their premium products in China.

“Taiwan does not produce quality tea in large amounts, and cannot even meet local demand, ” she told CNA in a telephone interview Saturday.

Read the full story at Focus Taiwan

In the News: Historic Taiwan-China trade deal takes effect

A trade pact between China and Taiwan, widely seen as the most significant agreement since civil war divided them in 1949, has come into effect.

The Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA) cuts tariffs on 539 Taiwanese exports to China and 267 Chinese products entering Taiwan.

The majority of people in Taiwan expect the deal to bring economic benefits.

But opponents fear it will make the island too dependent on China, which still considers it a renegade province.

Read the full story at BBC

In the News (South Korea): [Letters] Free trade is not always beneficial

Free trade is not always beneficial

Korea’s middle class is in danger. Each round of new statistics reports more Koreans falling into the lower classes. With unemployment on a persistent rise, households are struggling to get by. At the same time, the country’s conglomerates are reporting record profits. Incomes at the top are growing while opportunities for job seekers are shrinking. The gap between rich and poor is growing. If some factions of the Korean government and business community have their way, this growing in inequality may accelerate to an unprecedented level.

A high ranking Korean diplomat told the Chinese press that the two countries will likely begin negotiations on a free trade agreement in 2011. Korea wants a free trade agreement to compete for the Chinese market in semi-conductors and electronics with Taiwan, after the Taiwanese signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with the mainland in June.

The bill will face opposition from small and medium-sized manufacturing firms, as well as farmers and fishermen. A free trade agreement that would expose Korean firms to low Chinese labor costs. Cheap imports would be disastrous for domestic industry. If workers in these sectors lose their ability to compete, they will struggle to earn a living in an economy that demands education and specialized skills. Even well educated candidates are struggling in the current job market.

Read the full story at JoongAng Daily

In the News: RP to forge more free-trade deals

(While small scale farmers, who usually suffer from lack of agricultural support, continue to raise their concerns and objections to free trade agreements that put the agriculture sector at a disadvantage, ASEAN governments, like the Philippines, seem mindful only of the promised benefits, which usually go only to big producers and industries who are more prepared to take advantages of the opportunities for expanded trade. — Admin)

The Philippines is keen on joining the negotiations for the inter-regional economic integration as well as starting informal talks with the European Union (EU) for a possible bilateral trade pact, the Trade department said.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Gregory Domingo told reporters that the government has to engage in trade talks because the country would be put in a disadvantage in light of the globalized economy.

“You have to be part of every trade agreement; to not be a part is a disadvantage,” Domingo said.

“Our interest is not free trade per se, but the interest of Filipino businesses and consumers,” he added.

Read the full story at The Manila Times

AFA Issue Paper on Farmers’ Regional Trade (now available for download)

Farmers’ Regional Trade Agenda: Farmers’ Collective Voice on Trade in the ASEAN Region, Vol. 2 No. 3, October 2009.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been trying hard to go into free trade agreements (FTAs) with different countries. It believes that this will increase trade and help members sell their export products to more markets in other countries. It also wants to make ASEAN the world’s center of agricultural production. But in opening up markets and increasing trade, more imported goods from other countries can also come in.

These FTAs were supposed to be good for farmers, but actually, farmers have not been benefitting from these opportunities. From the experience of some countries, farmers benefit from FTAs only if they can compete in the international market and if they own land and other resources for production so that they can have the power to decide on what to plant on the land and how to use the resources.

Policies like FTAs have big impacts on farmers and agriculture, so it is important that farmers are able to voice their concerns and suggest ways to protect their sector and make sure that agriculture is developing.

This issue paper presents a regional trade agenda agreed on by several farmers’ organizations from the ASEAN region. This trade agenda includes recommendations that will help make small farmers more competitive. It also suggests ways of ensuring that farmers and the agricultural sector are protected from the harmful effects of opening up markets to international trade.

The farmers proposed policies and programs that will make sure that poor families have food on their tables and have reliable sources of income. They also suggested ways of achieving rural development and helping solve poverty in their countries.

This paper also describes the situation of farmers and the agricultural sector in the region, focusing on five ASEAN countries — Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

The issue paper has been translated into the languages of AFA members in Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Click here to download the issue paper

In the News: RP-EU wide-ranging deal OK’d

(AFA, with its Philippine member PAKISAMA, views with concern the RP-EU PCA for its implications for agricultural trade and its impact on small scale women and men farmers in the Philippines.)

MANILA, Philippines—Negotiations for the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) have been finalized with both parties agreeing to protect and defend human rights, among others.

In an interview with reporters, Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the Delegation of the European Union in the Philippines said the PCA is expected to be “initialed” within the month of June. The official signing may be on September or October once the text is translated into the 22 other languages of the EU.

The PCA, which was negotiated over a period of about 18 months, aims to further advance the bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and EU in a wide range of issues, including political security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment, development cooperation, education and culture, energy, transport, migration, and human rights.

Read the full story

In the News: Taiwan Economics Minister cuts short report about ECFA with China

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang cut short a report about plans for the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China Wednesday after lawmakers demanded more details about accompanying measures first.

A second official round of cross-straits talks about the project is expected to take place in Taipei next week, with the signing of the agreement expected in May or June despite strong opposition from within Taiwan.

The Legislative Yuan Economics Committee said Shih could only present his report after he provided details about government measures to accompany ECFA and a clear explanation of the early harvest list.

Read the full story at Taiwan News

In the News: Thai rice farmers fret about free trade

For many farmers in Thailand’s rice belt, agreements between Asian countries to reduce trade barriers have not brought all the benefits that national leaders promised.

“We are afraid of the free trade area,” says Chatree Radomlek, a 37-year-old farmer in Pathum Thani, about an hour’s drive north of Bangkok but a world away from the capital’s glitzy hotels and restaurants.

A rural community where local people boast of the nutritional benefits of eating field mice, its green paddies help make Thailand the world’s biggest rice exporter.

But where humid weather and new farming technologies used to dominate local farmers’ conversations, free trade is now the hot topic.

Read the full story

In the News: Taiwan and China to Start Substantive Talk on ECFA This Month

Taipei, March 1, 2010 (CENS)–Taiwan and China are scheduled to enter substantive discussion on the so-called early-harvest list, or priority items for mutual market opening, during the second talk on cross-Taiwan Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in Taipei earlier this month.

Despite inevitable give and take, both sides are expected to iron out their differences and reach agreement eventually, especially in view of the good-will gesture made by Chinese leaders recently, particularly on the thorniest issue regarding import of Chinese agricultural products into Taiwan.

Read the full story at Taiwan Economic News

In the News: Indian FTAs may hit SE Asian ryots

Mumbai: While India mulls another free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia and New Zealand, its FTAs with European Union and Japan remains shrouded in uncertainty with its decisions regarding intellectual property (IP) rights likely to impact not just India, but other developing South East Asian countries as well.

According to people closely tracking the FTAs, there is strong pressure on India to join the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) -1991, which would make Indian farmers pawns of multinational companies engaged in crop research.

Joining UPOV-1991 would crush farmers’ privileges to share,
exchange, and sell plant variety protection (PVP) seeds to other farmers.

PVP guarantees IP protection to plant varieties developed by
agricultural multinationals. The objective of UPOV is to protect new varieties of plants by IP. Harmonisation of PVP across the Asia
Pacific region is the aim of developed economies through FTAs, say experts.

Read the full story at DNA India

In the News: Thai tangerine producers affected by ASEAN-China FTA

Thai tangerine producers affected by ASEAN-China FTA

Tangerines are one of Thailand’s most important products, a fruit which occupies an important role in the economy. Since the free trade agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, one of the world’s primary tangerine growers, took effect January 1, the fruit is among a number of crops adversely affected in Thailand by the pact.

Fang district in the northern province of Chiang Mai has been known as a centre for tangerines of the Sainampueng variety for almost 10 years. This type of citrus fruit is of better quality compared to other types planted in the country in terms of its taste, texture, colour, and juice quantity.

Read the full story at Fresh Plaza

In the News: Vietnam’s rice exports not much affected by AFTA

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese rice exporters will not be significantly affected by the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), which zeroed out tariff on exports among six member countries of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), effective on January 1 2010, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

The tariff reduction will not have much impact on Vietnamese rice production and trading as the countries does not have many rice export contracts with ASEAN countries, except for the Philippines, said deputy head of MARD’s Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and strategy.

Five other ASEAN member, including Vietnam, would apply the zero tax rates on the other members in 2015.

Read the full story at Viet Nam Net Bridge

In the News: President reaches out to farmers, workers on Taiwan-China trade pact

Taipei, Feb. 9 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou sought to allay concerns Tuesday about a proposed trade pact between Taiwan and China in his first press conference to report on the progress in the trade talks.

Ma said the pact, which has raised widespread concerns among the public that it will hit the country’s traditional and agricultural sectors hard, is aimed at helping the people of Taiwan do business and enhancing Taiwan’s competitiveness.

Speaking in Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese and Hakka during the 45-minute press briefing — a gesture commonly seen during local election campaigns in an attempt to win the hearts of people in central and southern Taiwan — he also said that Vice President Vincent Siew and Premier Wu Den-yih, who speak better Taiwanese than he does, will visit central and southern Taiwan to communicate the government’s views in Taiwanese.

Ma promised that his government will not allow the import of Chinese workers or more Chinese agricultural products into Taiwan.

Read the full story at Taiwan News

In the News: Indonesians protest government’s first 100 days

AFA member Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) joined this multi-sectoral protest rally as they continue to oppose free trade agreements and other trade liberalization policies being implemented by the government because of their negative impact on agriculture and the farmers’ livelihoods.

JAKARTA — Thousands of Indonesians took to the streets Thursday to condemn corruption and demand the resignations of key ministers on the 100th day of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s new government.

Demonstrations were held across Jakarta and other cities including Surabaya, Makassar and Ambon, where protesters tried to storm the governor’s office and burned a poster of Yudhoyono.

Scuffles broke out with police in several places including Palu, in Central Sulawesi, and the wealthy Menteng suburb of Jakarta, where opposition party supporters set fire to tyres in the middle of a busy road.

About 10,000 people from a cross-section of civil society, student and labour groups gathered at various locations across Jakarta to shout slogans against graft and perceived mismanagement in Yudhoyono’s second and final term.

Read the full story at Bilaterals.org

In the News: CP Chairman upbeat over China’s market, Sino-Thai cooperation under FTA

At the 3rd World Chinese Forum in Beijing in 2004, Dhanin Chearavanont, chairman of the Thailand’s conglomerate Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, said, “we have always been optimistic about China’s developmental prospect, and in the future, we will stick to the policy of investing China.” More than five years from then, when interviewed by Xinhua at the group’s headquarters here, the chairman reiterated that “those words are still applicable nowadays.”

CHINA’S MARKET MORE POTENTIAL THAN BEFORE

China means something special both for CP Group and for the 71- year-old Chairman. As the very first overseas company that invested in the Chinese mainland after the implementation of its open-up policy in 1978, CP witnessed every steps in China’s development in the past 30 years from 1979 to 2009, and at the same time the company itself grew ever bigger.

Read the full story at People’s Daily Online

In the News: Indonesia Must Lift Fermented Cocoa Output

Jakarta, Jan 22 – Indonesia, the world’s number 3 cocoa grower, must increase its output of fermented cocoa beans or else risk being uncompetitive because of the lower cost of imported cocoa powder, an industry official said on Friday.

Indonesia’s cocoa industry faces stiffer competition following the implementation of China-ASEAN free trade agreement (CA-FTA) earlier this month, said Peter Jasman, chairman of Indonesian Cocoa Industry Association which represents grinders.

As part of the free trade agreement, Indonesia must scrap its 5 percent import duty on cocoa powder, which would encourage imports from rival grinders Malaysia and Singapore at the expense of domestic grinders.

Read the full story at Flex News

In the News: Indonesia To Tighten Control On Fruits From China

JAKARTA, Jan 23 (Bernama) — Indonesia will tighten its control over fruits from China to assure their quality, agriculture minister Suswono said here on Friday.

Quoting Suswono, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported that many fruits from China were found not to be in good condition because they were harvested long ahead of the proper time and therefore their price was low.

“A lot of fruits from China are already a year old such as oranges so that they have already lost their aroma. We will tighten control on fruits coming from China,” he said.

Apart from low quality, there are also other factors that have made fruits from that country cheap namely subsidy or dumping, he said.

Read the full story at Bernama