IBON On The JPEPA ‘Conditional Concurrence’: Still Unacceptable

The terms of the “conditional concurrence” of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) proposed by the Senate committees on foreign relations and on trade improve the deal, but unfortunately, still do not go far enough.

Even if accepted by Japan , which is unlikely, they still do not transform the deal into a genuine economi c p artnership agreement that recognizes the vast inequalities between the two countries and takes genuine measures to develop the Philippines .

The conditions for concurrence with the JPEPA proposed by the Senate committees are potentially substantive. The proposed Annex “A” explicitly introduces reservations/exceptions for future/existing measures that are not in the original agreement. This may possibly protect investment areas and allows for performance requirements.

Meanwhile, the proposed Annex “B” explicitly introduces the possibility that subsequent changes in Philippine laws of a suitably high level– such as by a Supreme Court decision or legislation by Congress– could alter tariff schedule commitments. This could possibly allow for raising tariffs and other trade barriers.

These proposals aim to align the JPEPA with the nationalist economi c p rovisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and are positive as far as they go. However, they do not signify a real shift in the country’s economic strategies and merely assert what is already formally contained in the charter. Unfortunately, these potentially important provisions have in practice not really been able to hinder the unprecedented implementation of “free market” policies of so-called globalization in the country and, indeed, have been observed more in the breach.

In any case, the conditions for concurrence still fall far short of transforming JPEPA into a truly developmental deal for the Philippines . Such a deal would begin from recognizing the vast inequality between advanced Japan and backward Philippines . It would also acknowledge that Japan has become highly developed in part from decades of taking advantage of cheap Filipino labor and natural resources as well as from access to the domestic market.

On these premises, a genuine partnership deal would have Japan in solidarity with the Philippines and giving real support for its development. Among others, this means the Philippines having open access to Japan while still retaining its trade and investment protections, the Philippines maintaining its control over and capacity to regulate the domestic economy, and Japan providing untied financial aid and technical assistance that the Philippines can freely use according to its development priorities.

The JPEPA signed by the government on the contrary is unequal, defeatist and destructive. The “conditional concurrence” proposed is an improvement, but the only acceptable deal for the Philippines must be one based on the principles of solidarity, mutual benefit and development for those who have long suffered poverty and backwardness. Anything short of this must be rejected.

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