Group seeks renegotiation of Japan trade deal

By Elaine Ruzul S. Ramos
Published in the November 14, 2007 issue of the Manila Standard TODAY


Advocacy group Fair Trade Alliance said renegotiating the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement is the only viable solution to address the imbalances of the treaty and make it acceptable to Filipinos.

Alliance lead convenor Wigberto Tañada said yesterday there was still room for the government to renegotiate the controversial treaty even before the Senate ratifies it.

“The JPEPA should be renegotiated. Under the agreement, not only the constitutional issues must be addressed but also the economic imbalances,” said Tañada.

He said options included the issuance of a conditional concurrence or a supplemental agreement on the treaty.

The Senate is on the final stages of consultation hearings with government negotiators, local industrial and agricultural producers, and civil society groups.

“There is no way to go but to renegotiate JPEPA. This is the option that the FTA is laying on the Senate table because in the past six hearings, the government negotiators were not able to justify the merits of JPEPA. This is because JPEPA has many loopholes and we have heard that in the six hearings. One of them is that it runs counter with the Philippine Constitution. If we want to trade with Japan, we should trade in a fair and respectable manner, which respects the limitations of the Constitution,” Tañada said.

International trade expert Justice Florentino Feliciano, in a letter to Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, said that the amendments to the treaty be set out in a supplemental agreement and attached to the original, which was signed by the Philippines and Japan, and approved and concurred in by the Senate.

He also said he strongly doubted that the agreement would pass the test of the Constitution.

Feliciano has submitted his opinion to the Senate and summarized the unconstitutionalities of the agreement and the need for it to be renegotiated, if the country does not want to be hauled into international courts for violations of the treaty.

Government has already secured the support of business groups for the ratification of the agreement. The business community said the treaty would expand and open new markets for Filipino manufacturing exports, especially garments, electronics, auto and auto parts, and furniture.

“But these exports are already being exported to Japan whether or not there is JPEPA. As of now, around 90 percent of Philippine exports to Japan are already enjoying duty-free entry to the Japanese markets. So what new Japanese markets are we talking about?” Tañada asked.

He said government negotiators and the proponents of the agreement were misleading the public about the benefits of the treaty.

“What is real is the danger that some industries will collapse and many jobs will be lost because of JPEPA,” Tañada said.

The Automotive Industry Workers Alliance had expressed its concern over JPEPA because of the entry of second-hand vehicles, that was being allowed by the treaty, could dislocate 77,000 jobs in automotive industry.

The steel and iron industry has also expressed the same concern as the flooding of steel imports could threaten the viability of the industry.

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