Government urged to disclose contents of Asean-Japan trade deal before signing it

By Max de Leon
Published in the November 23, 2007 issue of the Business Mirror

DISCLOSE to the public the contents of the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement first before signing it.

This was the appeal aired by the multisectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) to the Philippine government after news broke out that negotiations between Asean member-countries and Japan have been concluded during the Asean Summit in Singapore and the agreement is now up for signing.

In a letter addressed to Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila, former senator and FairTrade lead convenor Wigberto Tañada said they were surprised to learn that the Asean-Japan economic partnership agreement has been concluded without its provisions passing through consultations with the different stakeholders.

Tañada said this is serious considering the debate for the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) is still raging in the Senate.

“We, at FairTrade, are asking: Where are the consultations regarding these agreements?  Who will be the winners and losers in this Asean-Japan deal? And why is it at this point in time that we’ll be signing the agreement when we have a Jpepa to think and worry about,” Tañada said.

He said they are afraid that the Asean-Japan trade deal will overwrite the country’s amendments and conditionalities in the Jpepa.

Included here, Tañada said, is the contentious issues on transboundary movement of toxic waste, which was initially included in Jpepa, and might be carried out in the Asean-Japan trade deal

“In the spirit of transparency, we urge the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] to shed some light to the Asean-Japan economic agreement by disclosing it before signing any agreement in Singapore,” Tañada added.

The Asean-Japan agreement covers trade in goods, services, investments, rules of origin, dispute settlement mechanism, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, technical barriers to trade, and economic cooperation. Japan also wishes to incorporate intellectual property rights in the agreement.

The FairTrade is one of the leading groups opposing the ratification of the Jpepa.

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