Shield vs imported used cars sought

By Elaine Ruzul S. Ramos
Published on the September 13, 2007 issue of the Manila Standard TODAY

Local car makers have urged the government to strictly enforce the laws on importation of vehicles, particularly on used cars with the impending Senate ratification of the highly controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement.

Elizabeth Lee, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc., said the government must guarantee that the partnership agreement would not be detrimental to the local motor industry and would not invite an open dumping of used vehicles in the country.

“We are not at all against the ratification of JPEPA. Certainly, what we need is an assurance from the Philippine government that our industry will be fully protected once the treaty takes into force. Now the question is, will the automotive industry close shop because of JPEPA, the answer is no,” said Lee at a roundtable discussion on the implications of JPEPA in Dusit Hotel organized by the Universal Access to Competitiveness and Trade, a private-led advocacy group.

She cited the provisions of Executive Order 156, which provided for a comprehensive industry policy and directions for the motor vehicle development program and its implementing guidelines, but had not been fully enforced.

Rommel Gutierez, assistant vice president of Toyota Motor Philippines Corp., raised concern that the agreement might be used by some importers to bring in used vehicles.

“We just want to make sure that this EO 256 will be respected and will not be used as a venue for Subic importers to continue their importation of used vehicles. We would like to get more assurance from the government with respect to EO 156,” Gutierez said.

Lee said despite the stiff competition in the local and global market, the automotive industry had gained ground and made inroads since 2004. The industry has 100,000 formal markets and enlisted some 200,000 new registrants.
“But it’s never too late for our local industry. That is why I am very positive that if we do national marketing program and strictly implement the regulation against the importation of used vehicles, then it is never impossible for the Philippines to be at par with other automotive industries in the world,” Lee said.
JPEPA was deemed as the most comprehensive bilateral economic agreement that the country has entered into since the Philippine-US Parity Agreement of 1946. It combines a bilateral investment treaty and a bilateral free trade agreement on goods (manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries) and services.

It also has provisions on intellectual property rights, movement of natural persons, mutual recognition and bilateral cooperation.

The Fair Trade Alliance, meanwhile, said the 1,000-page partnership text showed imbalances, which need to be corrected.

The Philippines, for instance, had committed to liberalize 98 percent of its product lines upon enforcement of the agreement, while Japan would only eliminate tariffs on 90 percent of its total tariff lines, it said.

Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III (4th District, Quezon) urged the Senate to take cognizance of the concerns of various sectors.

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