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21 June 2009

Philippines ask Japan to boost investment

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Philippine President Gloria Arroyo on Thursday hailed "a new era of economic relations" with Japan after a trade deal took effect last year, and called for more Japanese investment in her country, AFP reported.

Japan, meanwhile, pledged fresh low-interest loans worth up to 45 billion yen ($470 million) for transportation infrastructure and rural projects, plus one billion yen in grant aid for disaster relief, officials said.

Arroyo, who arrived in Japan Wednesday for a working visit, met Prime Minister Taro Aso to discuss economic ties, North Korea's May nuclear test and other issues, foreign ministry officials said.

The leaders in a joint statement pledged to "make every effort to overcome the current global economic crisis," to work to slow global warming and seek an end to communist North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

Arroyo earlier told a business forum that "with the entering into force of the joint paper, now we open a new era of economic relations," referring to the bilateral free trade deal which took effect last December.

The agreement "needs adjustments for both parties, but the net result of this agreement will benefit both of our economies," she said. "Let me say to the Japanese business community: for growth even through the global crisis, invest in the Philippines, trade with the Philippines."

Arroyo and Japan's then-prime minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed the economic partnership pact in 2006, Manila's first bilateral free trade deal.

The Philippines Senate did not ratify the deal until last October, as environmentalists warned it could make the country a dumping ground for toxic waste from Japan, Asia's biggest economy.

The pact removes all tariffs on about 94 percent of bilateral trade by value and allows Philippine nurses and care workers to work in Japan on a long-term basis.

Remittances make up about 10 percent of the Philippine economy. Tokyo is the largest trading partner for Manila, while Manila is the second largest destination for Japanese foreign direct investment after the United States, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.


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