Round 3 of Japan-Philippines FTA talks end in stalemate

ABS-CBN News | 8 July 2004

Round 3 of Japan-R.P. talks end in stalemate

L. Agcaoili

The negotiations for the signing of the country’s first free-trade agreement ended up in a stalemate again after Japan has yet to act on the request of the Philippines to allow entry to Filipino nurses, health workers and lawyers.

A report from Japanese news agency Nikkei stated that Trade Undersecretary Thomas Aquino said nothing emerged from the third round of negotiations for the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in Cebu.

“[The Japanese] are still looking and looking and looking at how it might happen,” Aquino told a news conference.

He pointed out that nothing has yet emerged from Manila’s request that Japan allow more Filipino nurses, health-care workers and lawyers to work there legally.

The movement of natural persons is one of the major components of the economic partnership agreement. Substantive discussions have been made during the first and second negotiating sessions of the JPEPA held in the two countries early this year.

The Philippine negotiators impressed on their Japanese counterparts the global recognition conferred on the qualifications and practice of Philippine health-care providers abroad, as well as the country’s immediate readiness to assist Japan in addressing its health-care needs.

Japan has been reluctant to accept health workers from the Philippines for fear they would take jobs from Japanese or trigger a decline in pay rates at a time when unemployment in Japan is a sensitive issue.

Aquino, according to Nikkei, said both parties need two to three more sessions to finalize the agreement to pave the way for the signing of an agreement on December. This would be the first free-trade agreement for the Philippines.

“It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the signing [will be]. But certainly, we are looking forward to having one possibly before the year ends, or if there’s remaining issues, maybe the early part of next year,” he stressed.

The first round of negotations was held in Manila last February, the second was held in Tokyo, while the last session was conducted in Mactan, Cebu, which ended on Wednesday.

Aquino said the fourth round of negotiations would be held in Tokyo next month or early September.The proposed agreement would greatly benefit local exporters as Japan is the country’s second-largest export market next to the U.S. and is also the major source of capital equipment and raw materials.

source: ABS-CBN