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Cablegate: Wto Taft Goods Demarche - Philippines to Consider

VZCZCXRO7771
OO RUEHCHI RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHPB
DE RUEHML #0393 0450726
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 140726Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9744
INFO RUEHZU/ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS MANILA 000393

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD WTRO ECON RP
SUBJECT: WTO TAFT Goods Demarche - Philippines to Consider

Refs: a) State 12905, b) State 11974, c) Manila 139

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (SBU) Summary: EconCouns delivered ref a demarche to
Undersecretary for Trade Thomas Aquino of the Philippine Department
of Trade and Industry on February 13 after coordination with
colleagues at the EC Delegation in Manila. Aquino responded
positively, but it is not yet clear that the Philippine position has
changed from wait-and-see, let alone whether they would co-sponsor.
We will continue coordination and follow up with DTI next week on
this issue. End Summary.

Working Levels Not Receptive
----------------------------

2. (U) As instructed reftel, we coordinated this demarche with the
EC Delegation here in Manila. The Delegation received instructions
before we did, and had already made an initial approach to the
working level of the Department of Trade and Industry. Assistant
Director Angelo "Butch" Benedictos was reluctant to accept a joint
demarche by the U.S. and EC, so the EC met with him on February 8
without our participation. The EC reported to us that Benedictos'
response had not been particularly helpful. He had stated that the
issue was complex and that the Ministry was still studying it.
However, he gave our EC counterparts the strong impression that the
Philippines would not move on the issue until there had been
progress in the NAMA and agriculture negotiations. He also stated
that the Philippines "normally did not" co-sponsor proposals like
this. It would be easier for them to informally align themselves
with the position of a grouping of developing countries supporting
one or another position, rather than becoming a co-sponsor.

Policy Level More Open
----------------------

3. (U) In light of Benedictos' response, we determined in
consultation with the EC Delegation that taking the demarche to a
higher level would be more likely to have an impact.

4. (SBU) EconCouns met on February 13 with Undersecretary Tom
Aquino, who was accompanied by Benedictos. Delivering both this
demarche and the demarche on DDA Negotiations on Environmental Goods
and Services (ref b, reported septel), EconCouns pointed out that in
the recent meeting between Assistant to the President for Economic
Affairs Daniel Price and Philippine President Arroyo, Arroyo had
again expressed her commitment to moving forward on the Doha Round,
taking positions on the basis of Philippine interests, and not
waiting for the NAMA and agricultural results before negotiating
other issues. EconCouns used ref A talking points to explain the
TAFT Goods proposal, which Aquino was aware of in only a vague way.

5. (U) Aquino told Benedicto to instruct Philippine negotiators in
Geneva to support the proposal, but Benedicto cut him off saying, "I
already . . ." Aquino cut him off in turn to say, "Do it again."

Comment: Bridging the Gap
-------------------------

6. (U) It is clear that those Philippine officials who master the
details of this and other Doha Round negotiations, both here and in
Geneva, are resistant to any call for increasing the pace in
negotiating other issues, at least until NAMA and ag negotiations
progress. Policy levels in Manila, from President Arroyo down to
Aquino are more inclined toward the U.S. position. However, it is
not clear how forcefully they are pushing that position when we are
not in the room. EconCouns will go back to Aquino next week to seek
a more specific answer on the issue of co-sponsorship. We will also
find an opportunity to raise the issue with Secretary of Trade Peter
Favila.

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