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Agreement on ’Trade in Goods’ in the proposed ASEAN-Japan economic pact to be finalized November

Balita (Philippines) | May 12 2007

Agreement on ’Trade in Goods’ in the proposed ASEAN-Japan economic pact to be finalized November

The agreement on "Trade in Goods", the first chapter of the proposed ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and Japan Comprehensive Economic Agreement, is expected to be finalized in November this year after both parties have narrowed down gaps on some contentious issues.

Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila said both parties are ironing out the modalities.

Favila said countries have already came up with initial offers encompassing 95 percent of their tariff lines to kick off negotiations on the first chapter of the FTA.

A matrix on the offers is being circulated among ASEAN countries.

The Philippines, however, has yet to come up with its offer sheet and the DTI is just awaiting for the inputs from the Department of Agriculture.

"We can say the gap between ASEAN and Japan have been narrowed down," he said.

The trade chief said it would be too early to say if the negotiations on "Trade in Goods", the first chapter of the FTA deal, would be encountering roadblocks.

"There would be possible roadblocks or contentious issues but it is still too early to say," he said.

Initial talks, however, already points to Japan’s determination to continually protect rice from any move to liberalize this commodity or open up its market for imports.

Rice is a staple Japanese food and comes with a package of subsidies from the Japanese government.

While rice is a staple food among ASEAN countries, some ASEAN members like Thailand and Vietnam have been producing rice for the exports market.

"I think something more concrete would come out by August this year when the ASEAN economic ministers meet again in Manila," he added.

The Philippines, which has existing FTA with Japan, is expected to get the best from both FTA because the best benefit from any of the two deals must accrue to the signifying party.

"No one agreement will prevail against the other but the best benefit would be the one that should be recognized. It is an advantage for us because we are crossing between two agreements, which guarantee the best desired arrangement," he added.

The schedule on the tariff cuts under the ASEAN-JAPAN Comprehensive Economic Agreement would be the same as that of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

But Favila noted that since the JPEPA still needs ratification by Senate, it could be that the ASEAN-Japan may be implemented ahead of the JPEPA.

On the contentious issue of transboundary movement of toxic waste, which inclusion in the JPEPA had caused an uproar locally, Favila said it is likely that the same provision would be carried in the Japan-ASEAN trade deal. (PNA)

 source: Balita Organization