Tokyo calls out Manila over delayed rice tariff notice

In File Photo: The National Food Authority (NFA) stores its buffer rice stock consisting of imports and paddy it purchased from farmers in its warehouses.

TOKYO has called the attention of Manila to the delay in its notification of bound rates for rice imports following its implementation of a law that removed import caps on the staple.

In its query tabled for the World Trade Organization Committee on Agriculture meeting on October 30, Japan pointed out the Philippines has yet to notify the body of its rice tariffication, seven months after it removed its quantitative restriction on rice imports.

Citing the proceedings of the last WTO-CoA meeting in June, Japan said the Philippines had committed to notify the modification of its schedule to the Committee on Market Access.

Furthermore, Japan questioned the Philippine government’s motu proprio initiation of a safeguards investigation on rice imports pending the country’s notification of its bound rates on the imported staple.

The Philippines notified the WTO on September 13 that it launched a preliminary safeguard investigation on rice imports.

Tokyo said it “would like to raise its interest in these issues and be engaged in the discussion in an appropriate forum.”

“Japan has a systemic concern on the application of restrictive import measures including safeguard this time, because the Philippines has not initiated [the] necessary process to bind the tariffication. It should be immediately initiated,” Japan said.

“In this regard, Japan would like to ask the Philippines to provide a concrete time frame for the modification of the schedule,” it added.

The Philippines’s notification of modification of the schedule to the WTO, following its rice tariffication, would indicate the bound rate that Manila will slap on imported rice.

The bound rate is the maximum tariff rate that a country could apply on an imported good or commodity. In the June WTO-CoA meeting, the Philippines explained that it has “yet to complete its domestic processes in calculating the tariff equivalent of the rice QRs as this involves many government agencies.” “The Philippines will notify the modification of the Schedules to the Committee on Market Access as soon as the domestic processes on rice tariffication are completed,” it said.

Under Republic Act 11203 or the rice trade liberalization law, the calculated tariff rate equivalent shall be determined by the Tariff Commission and approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) board.

If the calculated tariff rate approved by the Neda board is lower than 180 percent, then the Philippines would notify a bound rate of 180 percent as mandated by law.

At present, the Philippines applies a 40-percent tariff on in-quota rice imports from non-Asean member-states; and a 50-percent  tariff for out-quota non-Asean rice imports. Rice imports from Asean member-states are slapped with a 35-percent tariff. 

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