Sunday, January 30, 2011

PHL all set for review of economic pact with Japan

MANILA and Tokyo are all set to meet next month for a comprehensive review of the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (Pjepa).

(The pact used to be known as the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement, or Jpepa.)

The government has already created an interagency team to prepare the Philippine panel.

Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. said the team is now assessing how the Pjepa can further improve and expand the country’s trade and investment relations with Japan .

The Department of Trade and Industry, Bureau of Customs, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, along with the representatives from the private sector have set a series of preliminary meetings for the review and assessment of Jpepa.

“We are involving both the public and private stakeholders in assessing the preliminary impact of the Pjepa on trade and investments, as well as on movement of natural persons,” Cristobal said.

Pjepa went into force in December 2008; it is the most comprehensive bilateral economic agreement the Philippines has entered into with another country covering trade in goods and services, investments, and cooperation.

Edgardo Abon, chairman of the Tariff Commission, said while renegotiations might not take place at the general review set for the end of February, it is a good venue to clarify Pjepa provisions that the two parties may find to be ambiguous.

“We will identify areas of improvement, particularly in terms of the interpretation. There could be some provisions that were deliberately made ambiguous or else there would be no meeting of the minds. We will clarify them,” Abon told the BusinessMirror.

He said the Philippine legislature will be watching the Pjepa review keenly since some lawmakers believe Manila got the raw end of the deal here.

Abon said this will also be a good time to determine if Japan had, indeed, put in substantial amount of investments that would merit the dismantling of tariffs for key products like automotives under the agreement.

To date, Cristobal said statistics provide favorable positive results of Pjepa to the Philippines.

Philippine exports to Japan, for instance, attained high growth rates with the implementation of Pjepa, with semiconductors rising 126 percent, apparel and clothing accessories increasing 110.13 percent, and ceramic products jumping by 107.41 percent.

Also, data from the Board of Investments, Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and Clark Development Corp. showed a marked growth in Japanese foreign direct investments to the Philippines from P16 billion in 2008 to P70 billion in 2009, specifically in the areas of construction, finance, real estate, manufacturing, and transportation.

But another area of Philippine concern is the deal on the movement of natural persons, particularly with the low passing rate of Filipino nurses and caregivers in Japan.


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