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RP sees Japan trade deal in July

ABS-CBN 5 April 2006

RP sees Japan trade deal in July

TOKYO - The country’s top diplomat said Wednesday he hoped to sign a delayed free-trade deal with Japan in July to mark the 50th anniversary of the re-establishment of relations after World War II.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said he handed an invitation to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to take part in anniversary celebrations where the free-trade agreement would be signed.

"I believe the goal that we both have is when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of normalization of Japan-Philippine diplomatic relations. That will be July 23," Romulo said when asked when the countries would sign a trade deal.

"This will define our relationship for the next decade or so. That’s why it is important that we have a good agreement," Romulo told a news conference.

Romulo, who is on a four-day visit to Japan, said the two sides had ironed out most issues including investment, tourism and exchanges of workers.

The countries had initially planned to ink the pact last year but disagreements have lingered. Japan has sought a more open investment climate in the Philippines which in turn has pushed to send more workers to Japan, mostly nurses.

Since the re-establishment of diplomatic ties, Japan has become the top aid donor to the Philippines.

Japan has contributing $9.4 billion over the past 23 years or 51 percent of all foreign loans and grants to Manila in the period.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso told Romulo on Tuesday that Tokyo is willing to consider resuming grant aid instead of loans, according to an official at the talks.

Japan has been seeking closer relations with Southeast Asia including through free-trade deals amid tense relations with its closer neighbor China over its war history.

On Tuesday Japan said it would propose launching talks in 2008 to create a massive Asian trade bloc of 16 countries.

 source: ABS-CBN