The Philippines is asking Japan to open its market for specialty rice as a part of the discussions for an upgraded bilateral trade agreement.
Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo, a member of the Philippine panel to the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, said Manila would try to convince Japan to open its market to Philippine specialty rice exports.
Japan has one of the most restrictive rice markets to protect its own farmers, while the Philippines recently lifted the quantitative restriction on rice imports.
“We know that rice is a sensitive commodity for the Japanese, as it was with us. We’re just asking for a small quota―enough for our specialty rice to have access into their market at a lower tariff,” Rodolfo said.
He said the Philippines had no plans to flood Japan with rice. “And we do not even have that capacity to flood any market with rice since we are also a net-importer [of rice],” Rodolfo said.
Japan maintains a 778-percent tariff on rice imported outside the minimum access scheme. Rice is one of Japan’s five “sacred” agricultural products, along with wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar.
National Economic and Development Authority director-general Ernesto Pernia said Filipino farmers should increase their production of special varieties of rice to respond to the increasing demand in the international market.
Pernia said Republic Act 11203, did not only replace the quantitative restrictions on rice imports with tariff but it also repealed all laws, rules, regulations, guidelines and other issuances imposing quantitative export quotas on rice exports.
“We encourage producers of special varieties of rice, such as heirloom, organic, and aromatic long-grain rice, to continue striving to be competitive and to increase their export volume capabilities,” Pernia said in a statement.
“These kinds of rice command higher premium, thus resulting in higher earnings for farmers,” Pernia said.
The Philippine and Japanese panels met for a third round of talks during the Holy Week, on April 15 to 17, to fine-tune the important points of discussions.
Rodolfo said Japan in return might ask the country to reduce the import tariff on automotive exports to the Philippines.
“Right now, they’re at 20 [percent tariff]. We’re also expecting this. We can discuss this but there has to be some sort of favorable concessions,” he said.
Rodolfo said while Japan was willing to put everything on the table, “but quoting them, they said it will be difficult to do so.”
The two countries earlier held substantive discussions on improving market access for top Philippines exports through the general review of PJEPA.
PJEPA covers trade in goods, trade in services, investments, movement of natural persons, intellectual property, customs procedures, improvement of the business environment and government procurement.
The Philippines is continuously pushing for its offensive interest in the improvement of market access especially for major agricultural exports, renegotiation of rules of origin for some products and a framework for the entry of additional categories of skilled workers from the Philippines to Japan.
Among the products of interest to the Philippines are bananas, mangoes and pineapples.
Rodolfo said the Philippine panel was looking forward to wrapping up the discussions for an upgraded bilateral trade agreement within the next six months.