Category Archives: Issue: Fair and Just Trade

In the News (Vietnam): Tariff increase violates free trade agreement

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) has confirmed that the US Department of Commerce (DOC) increase in the level of anti-dumping tariffs on Vietnam’s tra (Pangasius) fish runs counter to the letter and spirit of the free trade agreements between Vietnam and the US.

In an open letter sent to the Vietnamese Government and the US Ambassador in Vietnam on September 16, VASEP expressed indignation and concern over DOC’s preliminary antidumping duty rates in the sixth administrative review applied to Vietnam’s tra frozen fillets exported to the US.

Read the full story at VOV News

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: FairPrice veggies direct from Indonesia farms

YESTERDAY, NTUC Fair- Price, the biggest supermarket chain in Singapore, launched Pasar Indonesia – its new range of vegetables sourced from Indonesia.

The launch, held at FairPrice Kang Kar Mall in conjunction with the opening of the Indonesia Istimewa Fair, was graced by the Indonesian ambassador, Mr Wardana.

In 1997, the Pasar brand of fresh produce from other countries was introduced, growing to encompass some 500 items, including fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat.

Under the Pasar Indonesia label, five popular vegetable varieties are offered: xiao bai cai, kai lan, bai cai, endive and cai sim.

Read the full story at Asian One

In the News (Taiwan): Taichung politicians push for local fruit to be part of trade deal

Aug. 28 (CNA) Local opinion leaders from central Taiwan’s Taichung area called Saturday for locally grown fruit to be among the items received preferential tariff treatment from China while meeting a visiting Chinese official.

Legislator Yen Chin-piao and Taichung County Council Speaker Chang Ching-tang issued the call during a banquet with Zheng Lizhong, vice president of the quasi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, the Chinese body authorized to deal with Taiwan.

He is visiting Taiwan, however, in his capacity as deputy director of the Central Office of Taiwan Affairs of the Communist Party of China.

“Many Taichung farmers are very disappointed that their high-end products were not included on the first ‘early harvest list, ‘” Chang told the Central News Agency, referring to the list of items receiving favorable tariff treatment under the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) signed with China in late June.

Read the full story at Focus Taiwan

In the News (Thailand): A fair deal for producers and consumers alike

The Fairtrade programme, a price guarantee scheme in the farming sector, is doing its part to help disadvantaged farmers by ensuring a ready market and fair prices for products that offer better deals for producers and the environment.

Under the Germany-based Fairtrade movement, a minimum price is guaranteed to farmers in developing countries for each product that receives certification under the programme. Along with minimum prices, the programme also requires organic production techniques and that a premium be paid to producers by traders on top of the agreed price for community development and to ensure fair treatment of labour.

For farmers in rural Thailand, such as the Akha hilltribe people in a remote village in Doi Chaang in Chiang Rai, Fairtrade has transformed lives.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

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: Protests greet new round of Taiwan-China trade talks

TAOYUAN, Taiwan — Taiwan and China held a new round of talks on a contentious trade pact Wednesday as protesters wary of the island’s closer ties with the mainland scuffled with police and rival demonstrators.

A group of about 100 anti-China demonstrators gathered as representatives of the two sides met in a hotel in Taoyuan near the island’s capital, but were kept back by a cordon of uniformed police.

“We should protect Taiwan’s sovereignty and Taiwan’s own future,” said Chang Jaw-liang, one of the protest organisers. “Taiwan should not lean towards China.”

One woman set a Chinese flag ablaze, while scores of protesters holding placards opposing “unification” briefly clashed with pro-China supporters before police separated them.

The two-day Taoyuan meeting is the second round of formal talks on the planned pact and will focus on drawing up a list of industries entitled to preferential tariff treatment as soon as the agreement comes into force.

The pact, known as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, has set off a great deal of debate in Taiwan, which has governed itself since 1949.

Read the full story here

In the News: RP weighing options on protecting rice market under WTO

THE government is carefully weighing its options on protecting the Philippines’ rice market, as it could entail opening up the country’s market for other farm goods traded under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

An official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) also disclosed that it would be up to the next administration to determine whether it would negotiate for the retention of the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice.

“[The DA] will just make a recommendation but it will be up to the next administration whether it will go for the retention of the QR,” said the DA official who is privy on trade matters.

So far, the official said the DA has not yet come up with a final recommendation regarding the possible extension of the QR on rice and that the matter is under “careful study.”

Read the full story at Business Mirror

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: 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

Views: Paradox of Vietnamese farm produce

As an agricultural country with a variety of products topping the world’s import list, every year Vietnam still has to spend a large amount of foreign currency to import farm products, including vegetables, fruits, salt and milk. This paradoxical fact has existed for many years.

A variety of imported agricultural products are sold in markets and supermarkets in Vietnam. Most of them come from the US, China, Australia, Thailand and Japan. While Vietnamese agricultural products have difficulty in finding consumer markets, similar imported products continue to enter the daily meal of Vietnamese families.

In 2009, the agricultural sector achieved high revenues from exporting farm produce, earning US$15.4 billion, above the yearly set target of US$12 billion despite the global economic downturn. Vietnam was among the world’s largest exporters of rice, coffee, peppers and cashew nuts. However, last year the country also spent almost US$150 million importing vegetables and fruits from China and US$45 million purchasing farm products from Thailand. Furthermore, Vietnamese farmers have grown a lot of maize and cassava, but they still have to import fodder for cattle and fish from 25 countries around the world.

Read the full article at VOV News

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

In the News: RP to use EU case argument in US suit on distilled spirits

The Philippines will use the same line of defense it has been employing with the European Union (EU) when it negotiates with a new complainant over its tax system on distilled spirits—the United States.

The USTR Thursday last week filed a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge against Philippine excise taxes on alcohol that it said discriminate against US-made brands, particularly whisky and gin.

Manuel A.J. Teehankee, the Philippines permanent representative to the WTO, said the Philippines would continue to balance the interests of the country’s farmers affected by the tax regime.

Read the full story at Malaya

In the News: US revives Asia trade agenda

PENANG – A speech by United States President Barack Obama in Tokyo has elevated the status and prospect of the little-known Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, known by many observers as the P4, to the center stage of regional economic cooperation. Obama said during his December speech that the US was “engaging with the Trans-Pacific partnership countries with the goal of shaping a regional agreement”.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) would have it called, is a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore that was concluded in 2005 and which came into force in May 2006. Together with Australia, Peru and Vietnam, the US aims to expand the TPP from four to eight members (P8).

Read the full story at Asia Times

Views on Trade: Beef about US imports

Let’s just say that I walk to the burger joint on the corner and buy a 100 percent pure US beef hamburger for NT$79 or whatever. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and prions aside, I can’t do this in good conscience knowing that I’m fueling an industry that is ruining the world.

Not a penny of what I pay for my US beef goes to stop deforestation in Brazil, where they’re cutting down trees like crazy in order to grow soy. Why? Because they ship this soy (by boat) to the US, where it’s shipped (by truck and sometimes train) to farmers in the Midwest who plump up all these factory-housed cows (and pigs) and then send the final product (by air) to the tiny island of Taiwan, literally on the other side of the world. Not a penny of what I might pay for a burger goes to offset the carbon-dioxide pollution caused by the shipping because everyone takes Earth’s atmosphere for granted.

Read the full article at Taipei Times

In the News (Thailand): ASEAN FREE TRADE ACCORD ‘MAY LEAD TO BLACK MARKET RICE’

Bangkok Post, Published: 3/01/2010

The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry has aired concerns about smuggled rice from neighbouring countries after the full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) agreement.

Key elements of the agreement between members of the accord, which came into force on Friday, are zero tariffs and unlimited quotas for 23 farm products which include rice. The full trade liberalisation applies only to six members at present – Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will join in 2015.

The ministry is concerned gangs may take the opportunity to smuggle cheaper rice from neighbouring countries which at present do not benefit from the free trade pact into Thailand for exporting to the five other Asean members, according to Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Theera Wongsamut.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News (Taiwan): Agriculture issues not on ECFA agenda: COA

Taipei, Jan. 4 (CNA) Agriculture issues will not be included in negotiations between Taiwan and China on a proposed trade pact that seeks closer bilateral economic relations, Council of Agriculture (COA) Chairman Chen Wu-hsiung reiterated Monday.

“Here I can openly tell everyone that agriculture issues will not be included in the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) negotiations, ” Chen said in a session of the Legislative Yuan’s Economics Committee.

“Since the issues will not be discussed, the ECFA will have no impact on Taiwanese farmers at all, ” he said.

Agriculture issues are among the most-discussed topics relating to the controversial trade pact, as local agriculture workers and farmers are concerned that once the trade pact takes effect, the further opening of Taiwan to cheaper Chinese agricultural products will allow such products to dominate local market share.

Read the full story at Taiwan News

Views on FTAs: Human rights and the ASEAN-China FTA

Iman Prihandono , Sydney | Tue, 01/12/2010 9:29 AM | Opinion

Entering year 2010 is marked by the entry into a free trade area agreement between ASEAN and China, also known as the ASEAN-China FTA. Little attention was given to the possible impact of this FTA agreement to fulfill human rights in Indonesia. Some rights include the right to health and a healthy environment, work and earn a decent livelihood, the access to natural resources, and other social, economic, and cultural rights.

The ASEAN-China FTA was first made in 2001 at the ASEAN-China Summit, which formulated a Framework on Economic Cooperation and established an ASEAN-China Free Trade Area. Under this framework, establishing a free trade area within 10 years time was agreed.

The ASEAN-China FTA is not the first trade liberalization agreement entered by Indonesia. Indonesia’s participation in regional and international trade agreements began with the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1992, and followed its accession as a WTO member, as well as other agreements such as the ASEAN-Japanese FTA, the Korea-ASEAN FTA and a bilateral agreement with Japan, the Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJ-EPA). These agreements could possibly be added by the EU-ASEAN FTA. The same possibility may also happen with the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA, both agreements are now still in the negotiation process.

Critics said a number of trade agreements may potentially hinder the fulfillment of human rights.

Read the full article at “The Jakarta Post”

In the News (Thailand): Government plans safeguards for farmers

Bangkok Post, 28/12/2009 at 12:00 AM

Thai authorities are taking precautions to shield businesses and farmers from the fall in farm product prices after tariffs are cut under the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) at the start of 2010.

Thailand is set to liberalise the market for 23 farm items, although four products – cut flowers, potatoes, coconut meat and coffee beans – have been excluded to protect Thai farmers, said Supaporn Pimonlikit, deputy secretary-general of the Office of Agricultural Economics.

The four items are among 93 on Asean members’ lists of sensitive items, although an open market will be established next year for another 8,300 agricultural and industrial products between Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. New members Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will join the agreement in 2015.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post