(Was forwarded this by someone from the office who found it while rummaging through some old files. Interesting read-- written way back when by a guy who, if Facebook is to be believed, is now in Switzerland. Isang malaking "Apir!" kay Mr. Johannes Bernabe, who wrote this piece. Please, everyone. Spread the word.)
I'm surprised how MAR's brilliantly played out role as the Philippines' chief negotiator held last November 2001 in Doha, Quatar did not get the attention and praise it justly deserves. Anecdotes and situations where MAR's keen judgment, composure and leadership qualities were very much evident spring to mind quite easily.
There was for instance the confrontation with EC Commissioner Pascal Lamy regarding our refusal to agree to the EC's grant of preferential treatment in favour of ACP (African Caribbean Pacific) countries unless the resulting adverse trade effects suffered by the Philippines were adequately safeguarded. Unknown to many, the successful conclusion of the Ministerial Conference hinged on whether this issue would be resolved.
On the last day of negotiations, Lamy finally decided to engage MAR in a face-off, walked imperiously with his army of lawyers and advisers into the meeting room where the Philippine delegation had been consulting-- and receiving intense pressure-- from various delegations, and condescendingly issued an ultimatum: either the Philippines (and Thailand) accept the EC's last offer or accept responsibility for a failed Ministerial. Lamy then berated the Philippines for "holding the entire negotiations hostage" on account of a single issue (which obviously was untrue, since it was the EC which was forcing acceptance of the ACP preferential treatment upon us, since they needed the support of the ACP countries for the agenda the EC was pushing in Doha). Cutting him off, MAR stared down Lamy, saying, "I resent that. The Philippines is not holding anyone hostage here. If anyone is doing it, it is in fact the EC which is holding us hostage by insisting on our agreement to a deal which was never part of the Doha agenda in the first place!" Trying to rectify his faux pas, Lamy stammered that he "really didn't intend to mean that we were holding anything hostage," and that he "meant something different." At which point MAR said sharply, "C'mon, Pascal, you're far more sophisticated than that. We both know that you knew what you meant." Still trying to regain his balance, Lamy said that "English was not his mother tongue and that..." MAR pounced on him again before he could finish, retorting "Well, Pascal, English is not my mother tongue, too, but if you want, we can negotiate in Filipino instead!"
Minutes later, Lamy huffed out of the room, standing an inch or so shorter than when he came in. The EC had taken its best shot, going with its top honcho against MAR, and ended up contributing to MAR's growing stature in Doha instead.
Of course, the best part of it was in the end the Philippines got a better deal than even what the EC was prepared to give-- a mechanism for addressing our concerns that went beyond what the WTO rules obligated the EC to do at that point. Plus, by getting our deal and removing this final obstacle to the adoption of the Doha Declaration, MAR had essentially saved Doha. Otherwise, coming on the heels of a failed Ministerial Conference in Seattle, the WTO itself would now be teetering on the brink of irrelevance.
I wonder how many people realize that.
Labels: mar, pulitika, roxas, trabaho