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Bilateral trade deal under threat

Japan's free-trade deal with the Philippines is unlikely to be ratified by the senate in its present form, senate president Manuel Villar said Tuesday.
The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), signed in September last year, would remove import tariffs on more than 90 percent of goods traded between the two Asian countries, and opens the largely closed Japanese labour market to Filipino health workers.
The agreement can not come into effect until it is ratified by the Philippine Senate where it has been held up amid claims from vested interest groups that it is one sided in favour of Japan.
President Gloria Arroyo has described the agreement as a one of the economic priorities of her government.
"Personally I'm not impressed with the so-called economic benefits," Villar told the Foreign Correspondents Association at a forum.
Nevertheless, he said he kept an open mind and "I'm still waiting for them (Philippine economic officials) to convince me."

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