ONE YEAR AFTER PACT’S IMPLEMENTATION
A year after its implemen-tation, the governments of the Philippines and Japan have expressed “general satisfaction” over the achievements of the controversial free trade agreement (FTA) they had forged.
The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa), which aims to promote a freer trans-border flow of goods, persons, services and capital between the two countries, entered into force on Dec. 11, 2008.
Amid opposition from Philippine lawmakers and militant groups due to alleged “unconstitutional” provisions in the accord, Jpepa was signed on Sept. 9, 2006 by President Arroyo and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Helsinki, Finland but was only approved by the Philippine Senate last year.
In an assessment meeting held in Manila last Dec. 18, both sides exchanged views on the operation and implementation of the Jpepa since its entry into force last year.
The meeting was co-headed by Shigeru Nakamura, ambassador for International Trade and Economic Affairs, for the Japanese side, and Thomas Aquino, senior undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, for the Philippine side. Officials and experts of relevant ministries and agencies of both governments also participated in the meeting.
The two countries expressed general satisfaction for the overall achievements under the Jpepa as they reviewed the key aspects of the agreement, a joint statement issued by Manila and Tokyo said.
Among those reviewed were reports from the co-heads of the five Jpepa sub-committees that convened during the past year, namely, the sub-committee on trade in goods, sub-committee on trade in services, sub-committee on movement of natural persons, sub-committee on improvement of the business environment, and sub-committee on cooperation.
The Philippine side, in particular, expressed satisfaction at the smooth implementation of Chapter 9 of the agreement – that of the movement of natural persons, which involves the hiring and deployment of Filipino nurses and caregivers who will be sent to Japan to work in medical institutions.
“Both sides stressed that the Jpepa constitutes a solid basis for the furtherance of the strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines. Both countries will, in the coming months, continue to further promote, review and assess the implementation of the Jpepa, by making full use of the agreement’s consultative mechanisms, represented by the joint committee and sub-committees,” the two governments said in their joint statement.
The agreement with the Philippines is Japan’s ninth FTA following similar pacts it had forged with Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, Chile and a comprehensive trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Aside from trade, Jpepa also seeks to promote partnership in intellectual property, competition policy, improvement of business environment and bilateral cooperation in fields as human resources development, information and communications technology and small and medium enterprises.
The next meeting of the joint committee will be hosted by Japan in the second half of 2010.
Japan is one of the Philippines’ major trade and development partners. It remains the Philippines’ top export market and second largest trade market, with total bilateral trade amounting to $14.2 billion. It is also one of the top sources of investment and tourists in the country, next to the United States. –Michaela P. del Callar, Daily Tribune