JPEPA RATIFICATION PUTS RP IN MORE DANGER VS GLOBAL CRISIS

Contrary to Pres. Arroyo’s statement that the ratification of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will protect the country from the global financial crisis, research group IBON Foundation says it will make the country more vulnerable to economic shocks.

JPEPA and similar free trade deals further opens the local economy to more foreign plunder and drags the country to the global crisis worsened by trade and investment liberalization, said IBON research head Sonny Africa. Bilateral deals like JPEPA enables beleaguered countries like Japan to pass their crisis to other economies in the region through more liberalization.

Even as Japan claims that it is on the way to recovery, its economy has grappled with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. The emerging scenario of a US economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent.

The experience of the country with similar free trade deals such as the GATT-WTO, which the Senate ratified in 1994, has proven that no amount of safety nets could protect the economy and people’s livelihood from the harmful effects of liberalization.

According to Africa, it is ironic that the Senate ratified the JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization. “When will this government learn from the harmful effects of liberalization on the economy?” he asked.

The approval of JPEPA surrenders Philippine sovereignty and will reinforce the country’s backwardness. The country will be further prevented from implementing economic policies essential for its development and will be obliged to give similar disadvantageous terms in pending deals with the US, European countries and others.

There is no real gain for the Philippines and especially the poorest and most marginalized sectors with JPEPA. In agriculture it is the big corporate plantations that will gain and not the country’s millions of small farmers, Africa added.

To protect and build the domestic economy, the country needs trade protection against imports such as tariff and non-tariff barriers and investment controls, and not free trade deals like JPEPA that only further expose the country and deepen its links to the failing global economy. (end)

IBON is one of the convenors of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements.



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IBON ON JPEPA RATIFICATION: GOV’T HAS CLEARLY NOT LEARNED ITS LESSON

It is not surprising but still disappointing that the government has clearly not learned its lesson. The current global turmoil and its impact on the Philippines underscore the vulnerability of our economy. The country is extremely vulnerable because of nearly three decades of reckless “free market” policies of globalization.

Progressive groups warned in 1994 about the damage that a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal would cause. Yet the government insisted on ratifying the deal and even implemented policies opening up the economy beyond what the WTO agreement required. The so-called safety nets were ineffectual and local industry and agriculture has been devastated causing unprecedented joblessness.

The economy’s fundamentals are very weak and will be weakened further by JPEPA and other such deals to come. The country’s historic jobs crisis will worsen, more Filipinos will be forced to try and find work abroad, millions more will suffer poverty and deprivation.

We condemn the surrender of the country’s sovereignty and patrimony by the government through JPEPA. The country’s negotiators have absurdly given up nationalist and protectionist policy measures that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand for instance held on to in their respective trade deals with Japan.

The only acceptable deal for the Philippines is one based on the principles of solidarity, mutual benefit and development for those who have long suffered poverty and backwardness. The JPEPA however is a treasonous deal that must be completely rejected.



AS SENATE DELIBERATES ON JPEPA: STUDY SHOWS FOREIGN NURSES, CAREGIVERS FACE EXPLOITATIVE WORK CONDITIONS IN JAPAN

While proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) claim that the pact will create more opportunities for local nurses by allowing them to enter the Japanese market, a study by a Japanese university shows that foreign nurses in Japan face exploitative work conditions and even discrimination. 
  
A study by the University of Kitakyushu in Japan found out that employment programs involving foreign nurses and caregivers have resulted in trainees being forced to work long hours. The Japanese government has also refused to guarantee minimum wage levels, while exorbitant fees of at least 58,000 yen (PhP 23,200) are deducted from the nurses’ salaries every month. 
  
Exploitation of foreign workers on training programs has also been prevalent. Indonesian trainees in Japan , for instance, have reportedly experiencedphysical abuse and been forced to render unpaid overtime, while others have been denied such basic rights as freedom of movement. Meanwhile, non-Japanese in the bigger cities are reportedly subject to racial profiling by being asked to produce their foreign registration cards or passports, which must be carried at all times. 
  
Part of government’s hype is that with the JPEPA, 400 Filipino nurses and 600 caregivers will be allowed to enter Japan for training for over two years. However, the receiving scheme for health workers states that they must work as trainees in designated institutions, undergo six months ofJapanese language training and pass the national certification tests before they can qualify as nurse or caregiver. Although they are already working during this time they will be receiving pay only as a non-licensed worker or trainee or candidate, or as nurse’s aides and caregiver’s assistants. 
  
According to research group IBON, senators debating on the JPEPA should see that the inclusion of nurses in the JPEPA is a deceptive provision that offers uncertain benefits, made only to sweeten the blatantly one-sided, pro-Japan deal. Using Filipino nurses as a justification for approving JPEPA highlights how the Philippine government is willing to sacrifice the welfare of its citizens as well as to cover up for its severe failure in generating jobs and supporting the country’s health system. (end) 
  
The No Deal! Movement for Unequal Economic Agreements in cooperation with the La Sallian Justice and Peace Commission and Benedictines for Peace invite you to the forum ‘JPEPA: Deal or No Deal? The People’s Issues’, 9 am -12 pm, Sept. 12 at the Fajardo Gonzales Auditorium, DLSU Manila. The program includes discussion on the Senate hearings and the presentation of a manifesto on JPEPA.

INDONESIA EXPERIENCE DEBUNKS CLAIMS OF JPEPA ADVOCATES OF INCREASED ECONOMIC GAINS

As proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) continue to warn against the possibility of being left out if the pact is not ratified, the experience of Indonesia shows that its own bilateral deal with Japan has not resulted in increased economic gains. 
  
The recently-implemented Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJEPA) promised increased exports to Japan . But as the IJEPA went into effect in July, Indonesian Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said that Indonesia ’s main exports, such as agricultural products and timber, will continue to face high non-tariff barriers in the form of quality standards, while Japanese high-tech imports will be able to enter the Indonesian market with lower import taxes. The same situation is expected if the JPEPA is ratified, as Philippine pineapples and bananas would face strict phytosanitary standards before being allowed to enter the Japanese market. 
  
Moreover, major Japanese investors in Indonesia threatened to pull out of the country unless issues such as sufficient power supply were resolved. This discredits claims by JPEPA advocates that the trade pact with Japan would guarantee a flood of Japanese investments as Japanese investors would still have to consider factors other than the JPEPA before they decide to invest in the Philippines , such as labor costs and infrastructure. 
  
Some Indonesian analysts believe that Japan may be the bigger winner in the IJEPA, as the pact could help ensure for Japan a steady supply of Indonesian liquefied natural gas through increased Japanese investments in Indonesia ’s energy sector. According to an official of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry , Indonesia will likely become more dependent on Japan , to the detriment of local industry. 
  
The IJEPA demonstrates how Japan ’s bilateral trade agreements are not about genuine economic partnership or development but rather a tool it uses to advance Japanese corporate interests. Senators should heed this lesson and reject the JPEPA lest the country be trapped in a bad deal that compromises the Philippines ’ future economic prospects. 

CONSTITUTIONAL’ JPEPA A HOLLOW VICTORY

The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will still be against the best interests of Filipinos and the economy even if Japan accepts the Senate’s proposed “side deal” or any similar legal maneuver to make the JPEPA formally constitutional.

The changes to JPEPA proposed by the Senate still do not transform the deal into a genuine economic partnership agreement that recognizes the vast inequalities between the two countries and takes genuine measures to develop the Philippines.

The “side deal” merely aims to align the JPEPA with the nationalist economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It does notsignify a real shift in the country’s economic strategies and merely asserts what is already formally contained in the charter. Unfortunately these potentially important provisions have in practice not 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.

The “side deal” falls 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 laborand 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.

Introducing reservations/exceptions for future/existing investment measures and introducing the possibility of changing tariff schedule commitments, as the Senate proposed for “conditional concurrence” previously, are only part of this.

The JPEPA signed by the government on the contrary is unequal, defeatist and destructive and will remain so even with the “side deal”. The only acceptable deal for the Philippines is one based on the principles of
solidarity, mutual benefit and development.

JAPAN PUSHING JPEPA DUE TO WTO COLLAPSE

JAPAN PUSHING JPEPA DUE TO WTO COLLAPSE The collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks last week are pushing Japan to become even more aggressive in seeking bilateral and regional trade deals that advance its big corporate interests. More than ever, Japan will try to get through the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and other such free trade deals what it could not get through the WTO. It is ironic that the Philippines appears poised to ratify JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization.

The Japanese economy has grappled with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. It is trying to overcome the crisis of its “bubble economy” which has lingered since the early 1990s. While it claimed to be on the way to recovery in 2002 the emerging scenario of a United States (US) economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent. As it is, Japanese corporations are already testing the political limits of what can be squeezed from its domestic labor force to support their profits. Hence they are now after the greatest possible access to the cheap labor and natural resources of the region with the least intervention and taxes from foreign governments.

The JPEPA’s provisions even go far beyond what was proposed in the failed WTO talks. It includes issues such as investment, government procurement and competition policy which were already rejected at the WTO. The tariff cuts it demands are also far greater than in the WTO.

This is why the Philippines will be on the losing end of the JPEPA which is designed most of all to benefit big Japanese corporations even at the expense of Philippine workers, peasants and economic development. There will only be even more foreign-dominated industrial and service enclaves disconnected from and not benefiting the local economy. Millions of Filipinos already merely struggling to survive will remain impoverished as unequal deals such as JPEPA prevents the economy from developing.

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WITH OR WITHOUT SIDE DEAL, SENATE SHOULD REJECT JPEPA

Japan’s refusal to commit itself to a “side deal” on the Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) should be enough reason for senators to reject the controversial trade deal, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

Japan reportedly just wants a “general statement” of assurance that the JPEPA will not violate existing constitutional constraints and international law commitments. But if the JPEPA is passed by the Senate in exchange for such an assurance, it would commit the Philippines to forever forego vital policy tools such as trade barriers and policy controls. Japan itself used these protectionist policies to develop its economy in the past, but would deny the Philippines the use of these tools in the future.

Further, ratification of the JPEPA would also mark the start of an era of defeatist economic policy-setting in the Philippines, as the country would be forced include in future free trade agreements concessions that it had given to Japan.

But even if Japan had agreed to the side deal, the JPEPA remains inherently an unfair trade agreement that is biased against the Philippines’ economic interests. If senators are genuinely concerned about the country’s economic welfare, they should reject the JPEPA. (end)

IBON is one of the convenors of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements