Fair trade group renews call for JPEPA renegotiation

Published online in the January 22, 2008 edition of ABS CBN Interactive

The Fair Trade Alliance urged the government anew to renegotiate the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) after Senator Manuel Roxas II has favored its full ratification.

Former senator Wigberto Tañada, lead convenor of the multi-sectoral FairTrade, said the alliance is hoping that Roxas would still change his mind on the controversial deal with Japan.

“FairTrade thought that Sen. Roxas, after several public hearings on JPEPA, was able to see the economic balances in the treaty and the serious constitutional flaws, and that it was inferior to the agreements entered into by Japan with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand,” Tañada said.

“The Filipino people cannot accept a ‘tablo-talo’ (tie-lose) scenario. What we want is a win-win situation, a mutually beneficial economic partnership,” he added.

Tañada clarified that the group is not against economic partnership with any country, saying it is inevitable under a more globalized economic climate. But he said that the country must be cautious in entering into trade agreements.

The JPEPA, which has been signed by President Arroyo and ratified by the Japanese parliament, will lift all tariffs on about 80 percent of Philippine exports to Japan.

Tañada argued that close to 90 percent of Philippine exports already enjoy a duty-free access to Japan even without JPEPA.

Tañada also warned that the deal will only allow entry of used clothing and second-hand vehicles in the Philippines.

“That is why from the very start the position of the alliance is to renegotiate the treaty because of these inherent economic and constitutional questions. The Senate must correct these patently one-sided contents in JPEPA so that it will effectively benefit Philippine industries and the Filipino people.”

Various parties want the Senate to kill JPEPA because they said it will only create low-paying jobs and allow Japan to dump toxic waste in the country.

Roxas, who heads the Senate committee on trade and commerce that reviews the JPEPA, said the Philippines may end up losing more if it failed to open up to neighboring countries.

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