Thursday August 31, 2006
Japan to set upper limit in accepting Philippine nurses under FTA
Japan has agreed with the Philippines to set an upper limit on the number of Philippine nurses and caregivers it will accept under a bilateral free trade agreement which is scheduled to be signed by leaders of the two countries on Sept. 9, government sources said Thursday.
Tokyo is expected to receive 400 to 500 nurses and caregivers annually from the Southeast Asian nation under the FTA that will take effect next year. The two countries will stipulate the accord on personnel transfers in an annex attached to the pact, the sources said.
The two countries struck a basic FTA accord in November 2004, but negotiations to translate that agreement into legal texts had become bogged down mainly over how many Philippine staffers Japan will accept, and details on the liberalization of Manila’s auto and steel sectors, they said.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will sign the FTA ahead of the Asia-Europe Meeting on Sept. 10-11 in Helsinki, they said.
The envisioned pact will be the first for the Philippines and the fourth for Japan after ones with Singapore, Mexico and Malaysia. The arrangement with the Philippines is the first for Japan that features provisions on the movement of labor.
The upper limit will be introduced because of concerns in Japan that Japanese nationals will be deprived of employment opportunities following the influx of foreign laborers, according to the sources.
But the possibility remains that the two countries will expand the number of nurses and caregivers allowed to work in Japan in the future to fill a labor shortage in the country’s rapidly aging society. To leave open that possibility, the main FTA text will not include actual figures, they said.
In the framework FTA text, the two countries said that a limited number of Philippine nurses and caregivers who meet certain qualifications designated by Manila will be allowed to work in Japan on condition they pass Japanese qualification examinations.
As for the auto sector, the two countries have agreed to put off the date for the Philippines to scrap its import tariffs on Japanese vehicles from the originally agreed timing, the sources said.
Manila had said that it will immediately abolish tariffs on vehicles with engine displacement of more than 3000 cc, but the deadline for the removal of duties will be set in 2010 instead, according to the sources.
The Philippines insisted that the tariff end-date should be set later after Thailand agreed in principle with Japan last September that it will lower tariffs on Japanese finished vehicle imports with engine capacity of more than 3000 cc to 60 percent by 2009, and renegotiate on the complete tariff removal in the mid-2010s, they said.