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Philippines' Approval of Economic Agreement with Japan May Take Time Due to "Hazardous Wastes" Problem

     The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Japan and the Philippines, signed by both governments on 9 September 2006, was approved by the Japanese Diet at the plenary meeting of the House of Councilors on 6 December. The EPA is a comprehensive agreement aiming at the promotion of the liberalization of trade in some 9,300 goods and in services, investments and movement of natural persons. It also seeks to promote cooperation in the fields of intellectual property, regulation of anticompetitive action, improvement on business environment, human resources development and small and medium enterprises.
     With regard to movement of natural persons, Japan agrees to open its market to Filipino nurses and care workers if they meet some minimum requirements, including that they obtain national qualification of Japan. This is the first time that Japan agrees to admit foreign workers in this type of agreement.
     Since the House of Representatives of Japan had approved the agreement on 14 November, the EPA will come into force as soon as the Senate of the Philippines completes the process of ratification.
     Protest against the ratification has intensified in the Philippines, however, because "waste" are listed as one of the tariff reduction items in the agreement. Civil society organizations and politicians in the Philippines have raised concerns that hazardous wastes, movement of which is under strict control of the 1992 Basel Convention, might be imported from Japan into the country.
     Against the background of these concerns is the fact that the Schedule of the Philippines, which is applied to goods exported from Japan to the Philippines, lists the following items as Tariff Zero Products: residues containing arsenic, mercury, etc.; ash; clinical waste; municipal waste; sewage sludge; waste organic solvents and so on.
     The Embassy of Japan in the Philippines explains, through the website and other means, that the two governments are enforcing strict control on the export/import of hazardous wastes in accordance with the Basel Convention on this particular issue.

* Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) [Japanese]
  -Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
* "The signing of the Agreement on Economic Partnership between Japan and the Republic of the Philippines" (Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry) [Japanese]
  -FTA/EPA (Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry)
* Embassy of Japan in the Philippines
* The Problem of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) [principally in Japanese]
* Citizens Against Chemicals Pollution [Japanese]