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Trade deals start in Philippines

TOKYO, Jun 18 – 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.

Arroyo, who arrived in Japan Wednesday for a working visit, was to meet Prime Minister Taro Aso later in the day to discuss economic ties, North Korea\’s May nuclear test and other issues, foreign ministry officials said.

"With the entering into force of the joint paper, now we open a new era of economic relations," Arroyo told Japanese business leaders, 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 agreement in 2006, Manila\’s first bilateral free trade deal.

The Philippines Senate did not ratify the deal until October last year, as environmentalists warned it could make the country a dumping ground for Japan\’s toxic waste.

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.

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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.

A local media report in Japan also said the Philippines was considering selling up to one billion dollars worth of yen-denominated bonds — so called samurai bonds — to help ease budget difficulties.

The details were yet to be decided, but Manila was considering issuing the bonds in two years, using a guarantee programme of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation for the issuance, Kyodo News said.

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