At the 34th Joint Meeting of the Philippines and Japan Economic Cooperation Committees (PHILJEC) held in Makati in late February, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Adrian S. Cristobal (center) said that strengthened strategic ties between the Philippines and Japan will help sustain the country’s economic growth and enable industries to seize opportunities in regional and global markets. In photo with Cristobal are Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ASEAN, Dr. Wilfrido V. Villacorta, and PHILJEC Chairman Roberto Jose L. Castillo (right). Photo by Little Wing Luna/DTI

“Stronger partnerships and deeper collaborations between our countries and our people will allow us to further prosper, create wealth, generate gainful employment, and drive economic growth,” Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr said at the 34th Joint Meeting of the Philippines and Japan Economic Cooperation Committees (PHILJEC) held in Makati in late February.

The annual meeting, institutionalized by PHILJEC and its counterpart in Tokyo, the Japan-Philippines Economic Cooperation Committee (JPECC), aims to foster discussions on how both countries can expand trade and investments, increase and expedite transfer of technology, and other forms of economic exchange.

Cristobal joined Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhide Ishikawa, PHILJEC Chairman Roberto Jose L. Castillo, JPECC Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga, Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ASEAN, Dr. Wilfrido V. Villacorta.Almost fifty (50) executives from the top corporations in the Philippines and Japan participated in the meeting.

The DTI said that economic relations between Japan and the Philippines strengthened with the signing of the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA) in 2006.  The DTI and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) will also work closely in the next few months to develop specific programs to implement its action plan stipulated in the Joint Statement on Industrial Cooperation. The action plan outlines broad initiatives in key areas of interest, including automobiles, manufacturing, and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

“We assure our counterparts in Japan that the Philippines is working full speed ahead to enhance our domesticbusiness policy and legal environment to ensure ease of doing business and improve regional competitiveness of industries” Cristobal said.

“Japan is a steadfast strategic partner in our pursuit of inclusive growth. We encourage Japanese companies to expand and establish new businesses in the Philippines. We area  strategic regional manufacturing hub for the ASEAN, European Union, and US markets,” he added.

The Philippines, as a member of ASEAN, enjoys almost zero tariffs for 99% of intra-ASEAN exports. As a beneficiary country of the European Union-Generalized System of Preference Plus (EU-GSP+) and the United States GSP, the Philippines becomes a more attractive destination for investors. The EU-GSP+ grants duty-free access to 6,274 tariff lines while the US’s GSP allows duty-free access to 3,500 tariff lines.

Philippine priorities in Japan include enhanced market access for agricultural products, advances on the mechanism for deployment and working conditions of Filipino nurses and care workers as well as the possible entry of additional categories of skilled workers and professionals (e.g. English teachers and engineers). Meanwhile, Japan’s interests center on market access improvements for auto, iron and steel, services and investments.

In 2014, Japan was ranked as the Philippines’ principal source of investments, top trading partner (out of 222), top export market (out of 217), and third import supplier (out of 182). Total bilateral trade in the same year amounted to US$ 19.15 billion from US$ 17.27 billion in 2013.