Philippines backs review of FTA with Japan

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is pushing for the review of the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan to keep it up to date with other trade deals and allow greater market access for agricultural products.

“The Philippines’ bilateral agreement with Japan was its first ever bilateral FTA and since it has been already enforced for quite a number of years, we really are prioritizing the review and renegotiation to keep it up to date with the other FTAs, whether bilateral or regional, that the country has already been a party to so that the PJEPA (Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement) would maintain its relevance, particularly in terms of preferential access to each other’s market,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo told reporters.

While the Philippines wants an upgrade of the PJEPA, he said the review and renegotiation of the FTA has not moved forward due to the country’s insistence on discussing and negotiating for better market access for agricultural products, including tropical fruits.

Of particular interest to the Philippines are bananas, which are imposed an 18 percent tariff in the winter season and eight percent tariff in the summer when they enter the Japanese market.

Rodolfo said Japan, meanwhile, is expected to seek greater market access for its petrochemical products, steel, and automobiles.

PJEPA was signed by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Japan’s former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2006.

The deal, which entered into force in December 2008, covers trade in goods, trade in services, investments, movement of natural persons, intellectual property, government procurement, competition, and improvement of business environment, among others.

Under the PJEPA, a review of the FTA and its implementation would be undertaken by both parties in 2011 and every five years thereafter.

Aside from the PJEPA, the Philippines has an FTA with the European Free Trade Association, which groups Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

In addition, the Philippines has trade agreements with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Earlier, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the Department of Trade and Industry is hopeful the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement which the Philippines signed with other members of the ASEAN and trade partners Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, could be passed at the Senate plenary for ratification this month.

He also said the Philippines is targeting to sign the FTA with South Korea before February next year after both countries announced the conclusion of negotiations for the deal last month.


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