Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Both Manila and Tokyo are pleased with the results of the 2008 Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa), a "framework for enhancing economic relations between the two countries."
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Japanese Embassy said it was "still premature to make an overall evaluation [of] the full impact of Jpepa."
Both sides said, however, that "recent figures related to trade and investment have been very encouraging despite difficult situations the two countries faced, particularly last year."
They reported that the trade volume between the Philippines and Japan increased in 2011. Philippine exports to Japan rose from 335.4 billion pesos (US$7.8 billion) in 2010 to 382.7 billion pesos ($8.9 billion) last year. On the other hand, the Philippine imports from Japan slightly decreased from 290.2 billion pesos ($6.7 billion) in 2010 to 279.5 billion pesos ($6.5 billion) in 2011.
Japan remains the biggest investor in the Philippines, with total investments of 77.4 billion pesos ($1.8 billion) last year, 19.1 billion pesos ($455 million) more than 58.3 billion pesos ($1.3 billion) in 2010.
On Wednesday, the two sides held the fourth meeting of the Jpepa Subcommittee on the Improvement of the Business Environment, which aimed to "ensure a steady and concrete progress on the resolution of specific issues regarding the business environment."
Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe and Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal co-chaired the meeting, where they cited the "increasing interest shown by Japanese investors in the Philippines, as well as the expanded investments by Japanese companies" in the country.
"This was clearly the case with the recent visit to the Philippines of officials of the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and other economic missions from Japan. Both sides agreed that this is an opportune time to invite further investments in the Philippines and that "it is essential to continue dialogues with business communities."
The private sector was represented in the meeting by Nobuya Ichiki, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, and Guillermo Luz, chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines.
The next subcommittee meeting is scheduled for next September.
Last month, Kenji Hirai, embassy media officer, said the Jpepa had made "significant strides" since its introduction in 2008.
Hirai told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Japanese government "expects the smooth and effective implementation of Jpepa will lead to enhanced trade and investment relations [between the Philippines and Japan]."
Japan "hopes the economic relations between the two countries will continue to develop in 2012 based on the recent positive trend of expansion in both trade and investment under Jpepa," he added.
The embassy also had said it was confident that Tokyo and Manila would work toward full implementation of the agreement, which was signed on Sept. 9, 2006 in Helsinki, Finland, by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Two years later, the Jpepa was ratified by the Philippine Senate.
At one point, however, the agreement became controversial because of its provisions prohibiting the transport of toxic waste to either country and on the deployment of Filipino health-care workers to Japan.
The Jpepa aims to, among other things, liberalize trade in goods and services between the two countries, increase investment opportunities, enhance protection of intellectual property, and establish a framework for further bilateral cooperation.