RP  VOWS  TO  FAST-TRACK  TARIFF  CUTS  UNDER  ASEAN-CHINA  FTA

BEIJING (VIA PLDT), September 3, 2004 (STAR) By Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippines will accelerate the timetable for its tariff reduction program involving certain agricultural products under the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China Free Trade Area (AFTA) Agreement.

Trade and Industry Secretary Cesar Purisima said he gave his official commitment to Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xi Lai that the Philippines would reduce to zero the tariff on these products by 2006 instead of 2010 as originally scheduled.

Purisima said he and Bo had their own bilateral talks at the sidelines in last Tuesday night’s state banquet hosted by Chinese President Hu Jintao for the state visit of President Arroyo held at the Great Hall of People here in Beijing City.

Purisima said the reduction to zero tariff for certain Philippine agricultural products would be done through the so called "early harvest" scheme.

"This agreement on early harvest gives us utmost flexibility as we have discussed it with the minister," he said.

In particular, he said, the accelerated reduction would cover the products under Chapters 1 to 8 on "unprocessed agricultural" products.

Among the 10-member states of the ASEAN, Purisima said the Philippines is the only country that has delayed the reduction of its tariff rates on certain agricultural products like rice to protect its own agriculture industry.

Purisima said the three-day state visit here of President Arroyo has added a new dimension in the country’s trade and investment relations with China which he said would further boost the economic growth of the Philippines in particular.

Purisima specifically cited the Fisheries Cooperation and the pre-exploration agreement signed by the Philippine and Chinese governments covering the areas around the disputed South China Sea.

"The vision of South China Sea from an area of conflict to an area of cooperation would also help accelerate our economic growth of 6.35 percent for the first semester this year, which is the highest ever in 16 years," Purisima said.

The DTI Secretary also cited the signing of several joint venture agreemets inked by members of Presidet Arroyo’s official business delegation, mostly composed of Filipino-Chinese businessmen.

Four of these joint venture agreements were signed in Guangzhou City, the first stopover in President Arroyo’s state visit here.

The agreements are:

• Contract for the supply of engineering materials for flood control and slope protection between Cocotechnologies Corp. (RP) and Guangzhou Rivers Enterprise Co. Ltd. (China) in exchange for the delivery of $1-million coconut fiber to China;

• Contract for the supply of coco fiber products between Philippine Environmentech Products Corp. (RP) and Guangzhou Tianhe Yi Xin Fiber Product Co. (China);

• Agreement between Kemwerke Inc. (RP) and New Trump Enterprises Ltd. (China) for the supply of coconut alkyds, polyol resins and other ingredients of coatiings, inks, adhesive, varnish, foundry and related industries;

• Memorandum of agreement between Kemwerke Inc. (RP) and Akzo Nobel Coatings (China) for the supply of 4,800 metric tons of short oil alkyd resin, polyol resin and related products.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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