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Japan pushing JPEPA due to WTO collapse

IBON Foundation

Press statement

Japan Pushing JPEPA Due To WTO Collapse

6 August 2008

The collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks last week are
pushing Japan to become even more aggressive in seeking bilateral and
regional trade deals that advance its big corporate interests.

More than ever, Japan will try to get through the Japan-Philippines
Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and other such free trade deals
what it could not get through the WTO.

It is ironic that the Philippines appears poised to ratify JPEPA even as
the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed
development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization.

The Japanese economy has grappled with stagnant growth and high
unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other
economies to cope with its internal problems. It is trying to overcome the
crisis of its "bubble economy" which has lingered since the early 1990s.
While it claimed to be on the way to recovery in 2002 the emerging
scenario of a United States (US) economic slowdown, financial disorder,
soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent.

As it is, Japanese corporations are already testing the political limits
of what can be squeezed from its domestic labor force to support their
profits. Hence they are now after the greatest possible access to the
cheap labor and natural resources of the region with the least
intervention and taxes from foreign governments.

The JPEPA’s provisions even go far beyond what was proposed in the failed
WTO talks. It includes issues such as investment, government procurement
and competition policy which were already rejected at the WTO. The tariff
cuts it demands are also far greater than in the WTO.

This is why the Philippines will be on the losing end of the JPEPA which
is designed most of all to benefit big Japanese corporations even at the
expense of Philippine workers, peasants and economic development. There
will only be even more foreign-dominated industrial and service enclaves
disconnected from and not benefiting the local economy. Millions of
Filipinos already merely struggling to survive will remain impoverished as
unequal deals such as JPEPA prevents the economy from developing.(end)

IBON is one of the convenors of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic