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Philippine congress urged to investigate Japan-RP FTA

Manila | 27 September 2006

Philippine congress urged to investigate Japan-RP FTA

FTA may have gone beyond WTO pact

The recently signed free trade agreement between
the Philippines and Japan may have given economic
concessions to Japan that go beyond Philippine
commitments to the World Trade Organization
(WTO), a Filipino opposition legislator today warned.

“A perusal of the Japan-Philippine Economic
Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) shows that this is
a souped-up version of the WTO agreement. Our
negotiators inked agreements on contentious
issues that have yet to be settled even in the
WTO!” said Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño.

Casiño today led four other party list
legislators in filing House Resolution No. 1390
calling on the House to conduct an inquiry on the
economic policy implications of JPEPA on the country.

Among the issues Casiño mentioned were the
“Singapore issues” ­ namely investment
protection, competition policy, government
procurement and trade facilitation ­ that caused
the breakdown of the WTO’s Cancun Ministerial in
2004 and which were abandoned in subsequent rounds.

“All we are being told is that JPEPA will mean
Japan hiring more Filipino nurses. But take note,
the agreement contains 165 articles and 16
chapters covering a wide array of trade and
non-trade issues that were negotiated in secrecy,” he said.

Among the sensitive areas covered by the
agreement are the following, he stressed: trade
in goods, trade in services, investments, rules
of origin, customs procedures, movement of
persons, intellectual property, government
procurement, competition policy, and improvement of business environment.

“The fact that the agreement was signed by
President Arroyo and Prime Minister Koizumi in
Helsinki, away from the prying eyes of the
Filipino people, causes us much worry,” said the young solon.

The JPEPA is the first comprehensive bilateral
free trade agreement entered into by the
Philippines since the Laurel-Langley Agreement of
1954, in which the Philippines gave the United
States of America access to Philippine markets
and resources to the great disadvantage of local
manufacturers, entrepreneurs, workers and farmers.

He said this was urgent because a week after the
JPEPA’s Sept. 9, 2006 signing, Japan’s Ministry
of Finance revealed its plan to submit to the
Japanese Diet amendments to customs-related laws
and ordinances to enable Japan to invoke
emergency restrictions on imports from the
Philippines. Such amendments were reportedly
submitted to the Diet’s extraordinary session
scheduled to be convened yesterday, Sept. 26, 2006.