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Tokyo concessions bared

Manila Standard | 13 September 2006

Tokyo concessions bared

By Othel V. Campos

A free trade pact with Japan has given Philippine agricultural products like sugar wider access to the world’s second-largest economy, an agriculture official said yesterday.

Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, the country’s chief negotiator on agricultural product lines, said commodities would enjoy tariff rates at half the applied rate under the recently-signed Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement.

They include sugar, molasses, muscovado, chicken, small pineapples, fresh bananas and fisheries products.

“We negotiated for agriculture with the intent of going beyond our traditional markets in Japan. This means, we are also targeting products that we are not yet exporting to Japan but has the capacity to produce and export,” he said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Japan Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the trade agreement Saturday in Helsinki, Finland ahead of the two-day Asia-Europe meeting.

The trade deal allowed entry of an initial shipment of 300 metric tons of muscovado on the first year and further to 400 mt on the fourth year of the agreement despite Manila’s unsuccessful attempts to get concessions on raw and refined sugar.

Japan also gave a tariff quota of 2,000 mt on molasses by the third year of the agreement and 3,000 mt during the fourth year.

A tariff quota refers to a preset value or quantity of goods that may be imported during a specified period at lower customs duties. Quantities above the quota level will be slapped with normal customs duties.

Japan imposes a specific tariff rate of ¥35.3 per kilo on muscovado and ¥15.3 per kilo on cane molasses. The agreement will slash the rate to half on the day the agreement becomes effective.

The Philippines, which also failed to obtain a decent tariff reduction on regular-sized fresh pineapple exports to Japan, gained market access for 1,000 mt of small pineapples, or the so-called “queen pineapples,” during the first year and 1,800 mt by the fifth year.

Serrano said the Philippines negotiated an 8 percent duty on fresh bananas during the summer season and 18 percent during the winter season under a seasonal tariff rate mechanism.

Sausages and processed pork products will enjoy a 20 percent reduction on the applied rates with an initial export of 100 mt in the first year and rising to 500 mt on the fifth year. Processed pork in the volume of 400 mt, meanwhile, will be allowed during the first year rising to 1,200 mtT on the fifth year.

Japan also agreed to lower its tariff by 30 percent on Philippine-made ice cream over the first five years of implementation.

All tariff lines under the trade pact are subject to review on the fifth year.

“We were actually targeting for a zero to zero tariff with Japan but the latter refused,” said Serrano.

 source: Manila Standard