Philippines in the WTO

December 2005

In 1994, when the Philippine Senate was debating whether to ratify the Uruguay Round agreement establishing the WTO, then-Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo served as the Ramos administration's point person leading the charge to ratify the treaty. Being a US-trained neoliberal economist, she argued the orthodox view that the agreement and the WTO made up a multilateral set of rules or institutions that would eliminate unequal power relations from global trade and provide smaller countries equal standing with the big trading powers.
But in October 2002 at the summit of the Asia Pacific Cooperation grouping (APEC), GMA proclaimed the "need to re-engineer the WTO to ensure there is a level playing field" in global trade. The challenge in world trade policy, she said, was to ensure that "the rules of trading are not stopped in favor of developed countries, on the one hand, but practice protectionism against developing countries, on the other."
When even the neoliberals complain about the process, something has clearly gone awry.

Philippines membership in the WTO is a very complicated issue.The country has been exposed to the ravages of both free trade and monopolistic competition, two contradictory principles which coexist in the WTO.
One way to look at the issues is to acknowledge that in every battle there are winners and losers; what's the scorecard for the Philippines in the WTO?



* Much of the information on this page is lifted from the excellent book:
The Anti-Development State: The Political Economy of Permananet Crisis in the Philippines
by Walden Bello, Professor at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City and board member of Focus on the Global South  in Thailand.
In Hong Kong, I heard Mr. Bello give articulate WTO critiques at public forums, and then later exhort the crowd with a bullhorn during the anti-WTO marches. He's one of my heroes.*