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Japanese firms remain bullish

The Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines remains bullish on the Philippines despite the pre-election period, chamber president Nobuo Fujii said over the weekend.

“I can’t say how many but Japanese companies are always interested in the Philippines. The situation here is much better than other countries,” he said.

He said the upcoming presidential election was a political matter and that  economic strides would continue because of better business prospects and investments opportunities.

Fujii said despite a slowdown in Japan’s economy, Tokyo was still keen on extending support to the Philippine government.

Earlier, the Philippine Trade Department and the Japanese government signed an Action Plan on Industrial Cooperation to prepare  the Philippine manufacturing sector for increased competition among other members of the Asean economic community.

The plan outlines broad initiatives in key areas of interest and cooperation, including automobile, manufacturing, micro, small and medium enterprises, services and human resource development.

The initiatives are geared toward identifying and addressing supply chain gaps between the Philippines and Japan by providing technical and institutional capacity building to domestic industry players.

The Philippines and Japan in July 2014 signed a joint statement on industrial cooperation, in which Japan expressed support to Manila’s efforts in developing an industrial development roadmap to make the country a manufacturing and human resources development hub in Southeast Asia.

The two countries statement promised new areas of collaboration and the development of an action plan to realize the objectives.

Filipino farmers earlier asked the government to secure lower tariff rates on banana exports to Japan by taking advantage of the free trade agreement between the two countries.

The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association called on the Agriculture and Trade Departments to review the concessions in the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and secure the country’s position in the Japanese market.

PBGEA said more Japanese importers had struck deals with suppliers in Mozambique, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Indonesia, reducing Japan’s dependence on the Philippines.

The group said under bilateral and economic partnership agreements, fresh bananas exported from these countries enjoy zero tariffs for their pooled quotas of 1,000 tons per year against those on Philippine bananas that range from 8.5 percent to 18.5 percent.

“We are, therefore, reiterating our request for the re-negotiation to possibly reduce, if not eliminate, the tariffs on Philippine bananas, a move that is clearly supported by Japanese fruit importers particularly the Japan Fresh Produce lmport and Safety Association since four years ago,” said PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig.

Antig said last year, records showed Japan imported fresh bananas from 12 countries, including the Philippines, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, Taiwan, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, Costa Rica, China, Mozambique and the Dominican Republic.

He said Japanese imports from Ecuador and Guatemala had increased sharply, while imports from the Philippines went down.

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