Press Release
April 5, 2006


To enable the Philippines to assert and protect its rights and interests in all bilateral, regional, and multi-lateral trade negotiations, Senator Mar Roxas is proposing the creation and establishment of a Philippine Trade Representative Office, a central agency that will formulate the countrys international trade policy, handle trade negotiations, and at the same time untangle confusion arising from having several line agencies and ad hoc committees with overlapping functions and responsibilities on international trade.

Roxas, chair of the Senate Committees on Economic Affairs and Trade and Commerce, says there are undeniable deficiencies in the manner by which the Philippine government formulates its trade policies and conducts its negotiations, hence, his measure, Senate Bill No. 2236, which he filed last week.

Unlike other countries, the Philippines has no single authoritative agency that handles trade policy development and negotiations, he said.

What it has, Roxas bared, are several line agencies and ad hoc committees with overlapping functions, citing the Trade and Related Matters Committee (which has several sub-committees, such as the Technical Committee on WTO Matters), the WTO Desk of the Bureau of International Trade Relations under the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Council on ASEAN and APEC Cooperation, the Philippine Coordinating Committee, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, all of which are involved in trade policy formulation and negotiations.

With the above, there is clearly a replication of functions and fragmentation of authority which does not serve the countrys interests, Roxas explained, noting the observation of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies which has said that the different line agencies sitting in the Trade and Related Matters Committee tend to be caught up in a turf mentality that prevents the creation of a cross-country strategy.

Roxass bill calls for the appointment by the President of a Philippine Trade Representative and three deputies who shall all hold the rank of ambassador and subjected to confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.

The Philippine Trade Representative will have a fixed term of six years, while each of his deputies will stay in their posts for six, four, and two years, respectively, and can be re-appointed only once.

Apart from performing the role of the countrys chief trade negotiator, the Trade Representative shall provide the President advice on trade policy and act as his/her chief spokesperson on international trade agreements.

The bill provides that an inter-agency technical committee as well as advisory committee for trade and policy negotiations will assist the Trade Representative.

Roxas, who is asking Congress to appropriate P20 million for the office for its initial operation, said that if his proposed measure is approved, the country would have a more cohesive position and well-formulated policies in its trade negotiations.

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