Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez clarified that the lowering of tariff for imported rice is not an outcome of trade agreement discussions but only to diversify the sourcing of the staple.
“The tariff adjustment was not due to any trade agreement discussion. It was mainly due to rising prices of rice from major import source, like Vietnam and Thailand, which are Asean countries and which have 35 percent tariff rates,” Lopez said in a statement.
He added that sourcing outside Asean member states will secure sufficient rice inventory and ensure low and stable price of rice.
On May 15, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 135 that cuts the most favored nation (MFN) tariff rate on rice from 40 percent to 35 percent.
Lopez said that by lowering the MFN rate, importing rice from countries outside Asean can compete with the prices of rice from Vietnam and Thailand.
“The idea is just to have parity tariff of 35 percent for rice coming also from outside Asean, to lessen the cost of acquisition to benefit the consumers,” he said.
The country is eyeing to source rice from India.
“The tariff reduction can benefit future talks with other countries but tariff was not reduced because of these talks, but primarily because of how it will benefit directly the Filipino consumers through lower rice prices,” Lopez said.*PNA