Trade negotiators pushing Japanese gov’t to lift tariff on PH bananas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Aug) –Trade negotiators from the Philippines are pushing for elimination of the tariff rates on Cavendish banana in Japan as the countries are undertaking a general review on the market access of key export products from both sides, Bureau of International Trade Relations director Anne Claire C. Cabochan said.

During the “One Country, One Voice Stakeholders Consultations on Generalized System of Preference” at the Seda Hotel here, Cabochan said that the Philippines has been aggressively pushing for a general review to cover banana from the list of products that are tariff-free.

The review came after Filipino banana exporters raised concerns of possible reduction of their market share in the Japanese market due to high tariffs levied against Cavendish bananas compared to other banana-exporting nations.

The trade official said the elimination of tariffs on bananas has always been the top priority of Filipino negotiators with their Japanese counterparts in a series of meetings.

Cabochan said they couldn’t ascertain how much time would be needed for the review as there are several sub-committees, which are currently discussing concerns on Philippine-Japan trade.

Yvette Asunto, communications officer of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association, said the Philippines’ market share in Japan for bananas is 30% but expressed concern Filipino exporters might lose its market to competition due to the high export cost with 8% tariff during summer and maximum of 18% during winter.

She said the Japanese government would eliminate tariffs on bananas from Colombia next year; Vietnam, 2021; and countries in Central America, 2020.

She said the PBGEA would send trade negotiators from the government side their position paper expressing their concerns on the ongoing general review of the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership (PJEPA).

She said Japan has always been the country’s top export market for bananas, followed by China and South Korea.

Mindanao Banana Farmers & Exporters Association, Inc. (MBFEAI) chairperson Evelyn I. Magno said the primary issue confronting the Filipino farmers is not only pest and diseases but also global market competition.

She said it would severely affect the growers if the government will not aggressively push for the removal of tariff, most especially in Japan, the country’s most stable export market.

“If we cannot remove the tariff, we will die. We will be the least preferred. If we don’t push hardly on the removal of tariff, diseases would not only be our problem. We’ve long been lobbying for it but until now, it’s not being addressed, there is still no agreement,” Magno said.

According to a report of the Philippine Statistics Authority published on July 10, 2018, fresh bananas were the fifth top export of the country valued at $146.41 million and a 2.5% share to the total export receipts in May 2018. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)