May 26, 2011
Human Rights and Trade: Tensions and Interactions
Prof. Felipe Medalla, Chairwoman Loretta Rosales and Senator Wigberto
No, the Philippines did not sacrifice human rights in the altar
of free trade. This was the answer of Sen. Wigberto Tañada,
Chairman of the Philippine Working
Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, to the question
asked of speakers at a forum on Thursday, 26 May 2011.
Free trade policies have a remarkable capacity to widen human
rights, fundamental freedoms and even advance women’s rights.
However, these policies can also undermine the fundamental principles
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and national constitution
that uphold dignity and social progress. Free trade may impair,
undermine and place at risk equality before the law and having
equal access to public services without discrimination.
Sen. Tañada also argued that the Philippines was not prepared
when it joined the World Trade Organization in 1994. The promised
safety nets and expected gains, including benefits and jobs, did
not materialize. Today, the Philippines continues to face deepening
poverty, increasing inequality, rising unemployment and a decline
of industries and the agricultural sector.
Prof. Felipe Medalla of the Foundation
for Economic Freedom said that in some countries, the
only way for free trade to exist is to violate human rights, by
preventing union bargaining, for example. The Philippines, however,
is a different case. The reduction of trade barriers came together
with democracy and human rights, particularly because artificial
trade barriers existed during martial law.
Prof. Medalla noted that there are plenty reasons why poverty exists
in the Philippines or why human rights may not be upheld but the
roots of these are deep and due to terrible institutions,
particularly the justice system. He added that
the solutions to this problem should be the improvement of tax collection,
providing value for money for taxpayers, ensuring judges with fair
decisions, making sure that policemen are not criminals themselves
and improving the educational system.
Hon. Loretta Rosales
Jules Maaten, FNF Philippines Country Director
, Chairperson of the Commission
on Human Rights
, proposed strengthening regional ties within
Southeast Asia as ASEAN members. Previously, regional trade agreements
have not allowed this to happen. However, having national human
rights institutions come together to discuss critical human rights
and trade issues will materialize in collective regional strength
to leverage against more developed countries.
This forum was organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation
for Liberty (FNF) and Council of Asian Liberals
and Democrats (CALD) together with the Ateneo
Human Rights Center (AHRC) as part of the "Road to Manila
Congress", a series of forums in preparation for the Liberal
International 57th Congress on Human Rights and Trade.
The next forum, “Saving Asian Democracy: Can the Philippines
Lead the Way?”, will bring together journalist Ms. Maria
Ressa, Dr. Neric Acosta (CALD Secretary General) and Dr. Rainer
Adam (FNF Regional Director for
Southeast and East Asia) on Wednesday, 01 June 2011, 4-6pm
at the De La Salle University. For more information, please contact
Pauline Sanchez at 0920-9158428.
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