THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it cannot grant an Indonesian request to remove the special safeguards (SSG) on coffee mixes, noting that a surge in imports has harmed domestic coffee producers.
Undersecretary Segfredo R. Serrano told reporters on Tuesday that Indonesia has complained to President Rodrigo R. Duterte of unfair treatment, particularly the Kopiko brand. Mr. Serrano noted the huge trade deficit between the Philippines and Indonesia as the latter does not want to open its market to Philippine agricultural goods.
He said the SSG applies to all nations, not just Indonesia, and Manila has “solid basis” to act as it did. “We have followed the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) notably on the use of safeguards and our own domestic legislation which is the Safeguard Measures Act,” Mr. Serrano said.
“There is a basis (for SSGs), the triggers have bee breached, and that therefore, the special safeguard action is something we have posted notice on to the WTO. It is not specifically targeted at Indonesia,” Mr. Serrano added.
Members of the WTO are allowed to invoke special safeguards to raise import duties temporarily to deal with import surges or price decliens.
“Indonesia prepared an agreement without even studying our laws. It wants the Philippines to agree to permanently lift the SSG,” Mr. Serrano said, noting that the maker of Kopiko would like to invest in the Philippines on the condition that SSGs are lifted.
“If they would like to invest here, it is very much appreciated but it has to be without conditions. They can apply for incentives, we will support and assist them, but they cannot impose conditions, which is meddling with our trade policies. That is completely unacceptable,” he said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio