Posts Tagged ‘International relations’

“The changing triangular relations between the Philippines, the United States and the People’s Republic China: From Obama, Aquino, and Xi and beyond”


Amado M. Mendoza, Jr. and Richard Javad Heydarian

Part IV

Philippines flag

Chinese flag

The dragon and the carabao


Philippine-China bilateral ties have been far from monolithic, perhaps representing one of the most volatile inter-state relationships in recent memory. Today, the Philippines is seen as one of the most vociferous and outspoken critics of China’s maritime assertiveness in East Asia. And it has, much to the chagrin of its giant neighbor, taken the unprecedented decision to use third-party arbitration, under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to push back against China’s sweeping claims and ever-expanding para-military patrols across the South China Sea.

Less than a decade earlier, however, the two countries enjoyed a highly cordial relationship, anchored by institutionalized security dialogue, large-scale trade and investments deal, and various confidence building measures (CBMs) aimed at managing their territorial disputes. A mono-causal explanation of the evolution of Philippine-China ties obfuscates the complex interplay of multiple factors in shaping their bilateral relationship.  The Philippines’ relations with China have been influenced by not only major developments in the South China Sea — namely, China’s coercive assertion of its claims at the expense of the Philippines — but also the strategic predisposition of each Philippine administration as well as the broader dynamics of U.S.-China relations.

A rollercoaster relationship

As America’s oldest ally, the Philippines stood with its former colonial master throughout much of the early-Cold War period, serving as a key logistical hub during the Korean War (1950-53) as well as the Vietnam War (1955-75). The Philippines proved itself as a crucial partner in containing the spread of Communism in the Asia-Pacific theater, hosting America’s largest overseas bases in Clark and Subic, which served as the bedrock of Washington’s forward deployment presence in the region (Anderson 1999; Bello 2006; 2010).


Manila’s strategic proximity — if not subservience — to Washington, however, did not prevent it from reaching out to Beijing. In the 1970s, the Ferdinand Marcos administration (1965-1986) pursued a rapprochement with Chairman Mao. The Filipino strongman recognized the importance of maintaining stable relations with a powerful neighbor, which could hurt the Philippines both from without and within. On one hand, the Philippines was embroiled in a domestic counter-insurgency campaign against an increasingly powerful indigenous Communist movement.  Externally, the Marcos administration was cognizant of China’s growing ambitions in the South China Sea, as Beijing sought to eliminate South Vietnam’s presence in the Paracel chain of islands, culminating in skirmishes in 1974, and push further into the Spratly chain of islands. The Philippines was intent on making sure its presence in the Thitu Island, where it established an airstrip and advanced facilities, was not threatened by China, although robust American military presence in the Philippines served as a key deterrence.. Overall, Manila sought a modus vivendi with its Communist neighbor. Crucially, the normalization of Philippine-China ties took place within the context of a brewing détente between Beijing and Washington, as China’s paramount leader reciprocated the Nixon administration’s charm offensive. Mao and Nixon laid down the foundations of a de facto US-China alliance against the Soviet Union, which ramped up its security ties with (a newly unified) Vietnam. Both Manila and Beijing were concerned with prospects of greater Vietnamese territorial assertiveness — with Soviet assistance and against the backdrop of America’s humiliating setback in South Vietnam — in the region.

Deng Xiaoping

The rise of pragmatist leader, Deng Xiaoping, coincided with (i) the normalization of China’s ties with (American-aligned) Southeast Asian neighbors and (ii) a determined pushback against Hanoi’s ambitions in Indo-China, particularly in Cambodia, and in the South China Sea, particularly in the Spratly chain of islands where Vietnam enjoyed the most expansive presence, controlling  some twenty one (21) features. The Moscow-Hanoi axis represented a common enemy to Beijing, Manila, and Washington, who were increasingly bound together by a cynical “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” strategic mindset. Philippine-China bilateral relations also benefited from the growing sophistication of Beijing’s diplomacy. Deng Xiaoping embarked on a charm-offensive across Southeast Asia shortly after assuming power, and chose to nix long financial-logistical support to Communist insurgencies across the region; meanwhile, his protégé Jiang Zemin (1992-2002) oversaw the transformation of the Chinese diplomatic corps into a modern, articulate, and competent force, which facilitated a careful cultivation of bilateral ties with neighboring countries such as the Philippines (Graver 1992; Kurlantzick 2007; Kissinger 2011; Shirk 2007).

The end of Cold War, however, presented new challenges to Philippine-China relations. The withdrawal of American bases from the Philippines in 1992, after a wave of nationalist outcry against foreign military presence in the country, created a huge power vacuum in the region. It didn’t take long before China stepped in, coercively occupying (1994) the Mischief Reef, a feature claimed (and intermittently occupied) by the Philippines in the Spratly chain of island. By 1995, the two countries confronted a diplomatic crisis, with the Ramos administration (1992-1998) considering various measures to restrain China’s territorial opportunism and wrest back the Mischief Reef. Aside from augmenting the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), under the AFP Modernization Act of 1996, the Ramos administration assiduously mobilized a regional diplomatic offensive against China, which culminated in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Forged under the aegis of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the DOC provided a foundational document for a long-term management of the South China Sea disputes, discouraging claimant states from engaging in provocative, unilateral and coercive measures in the area, among other things. Crucially, it provided a basis for the negotiation of a more legally-binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the long-run. The Philippines decision to welcome back American troops, under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), was by no means sufficient to fully deter Chinese adventurism. The VFA neither provided for the establishment of permanent, large-scale American bases in the Philippines — a non-starter on constitutional grounds — nor did it translate into unequivocal American support for the Philippines amid the Southeast Asian country’s territorial disputes with China. The Ramos administration had to place at least some of its strategic eggs in the diplomatic basket. There was no military solution to the Chinese threat.

With the entry of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the emergence of the Communist power into a regional economic pivot, neighboring countries further shifted their attention to trade and investment-related issues. Now, China was primarily seen as an indispensable economic partner for many East Asian countries. And the Philippines came to saw China as a vital trading partner, too. Meanwhile, the Bush administration’s (2000-2008) pugnacious and unilateralist foreign policy began to alienate many countries in the region. Soon, many countries began to see China as a peaceful, cooperative rising power standing in stark contrast to the unilateral assertiveness of the U.S. By 2004, the Arroyo administration (2001-2010) decided to withdraw its troops from the “Coalition of the Willing” contingent in Iraq, a move that incensed Washington but bought the unpopular Filipino president desperately needed political capital at home. The move came on the heels of growing popular demand for saving a Filipino hostage (Angelo De La Cruz) held by al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Iraq, which demanded the withdrawal of Philippine military presence in the Middle Eastern country in exchange for the hostage’s life. To pre-empt any potential reprisal from Washington, which dangled the option of reducing military and financial assistance to its Southeast Asian ally, the Arroyo administration astutely employed the ‘China card’, embarking on a high-profile state visit to Beijing, which culminated in a series of trade, security, and investment agreements. What followed was arguably the “golden age” of Philippine-China relations, as the Arroyo administration inked major Chinese investments in the country, particularly in the infrastructure sector, and explored CBMs such as the 2005 Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) to manage disputes and explore joint development schemes in the South China Sea (Morada 2006; Mendoza and Heydarian 2012).

joint seismic survey

Astonishingly, even the U.S. was seemingly impressed by China’s efforts to develop cordial ties with the Philippines. For instance, in a cable entitled “More on Hu Jintao’s Visit to the Philippines”, the American Embassy in Manila was largely sanguine with Chinese president’s 2005 visit to Manila by stating: “President Hu’s charm offensive in Manila does not appear significantly different from that in other ASEAN capitals.  Better and broader bilateral ties advance regional interests, as other ASEAN members have also discovered”.[1]  In another cable, entitled “Joint Seismic Survey in South China Sea makes progress”, Washington also welcomed the JMSU agreement: “The joint seismic survey offers a good model for potential subsequent cooperation on exploration and exploitation, and fits neatly with Philippine goals of increased interaction between ASEAN and China and the promotion of confidence building measures. The true test of the cooperative spirit, however, will come when the parties may contemplate Extraction.”[2] Astonishingly, the U.S. was cautiously optimistic with respect to growing Philippine-China relations.

Bilateral ties, however, began to sour towards the twilight years of the Arroyo administration, as the Philippine Supreme Court declared the JMSU unconstitutional and a series of corruption scandals rocked Philippine-China joint ventures, particularly the NBN-ZTE project. The election of a new Filipino leader paved the way for a qualitative shift in bilateral relations. Presenting his agenda as a moral crusade against corruption (and his successor), Benigno Aquino III was bound to be more circumspect vis-à-vis large-scale Chinese investments in the country. The 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis also took a toll on bilateral trade, which reached as high as $30 billion in 2007 but significantly shrank (and shifted in China’s favor) in succeeding years (Mendoza & Heydarian 2012). Bilateral ties were further embittered by growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, particularly in 2010 and 2011. The Philippines had to suspend its oil exploration activities in the Reed Bank due to Chinese harassments. No wonder then, the Philippines began to openly embrace the Obama administration’s Pivot to Asia (P2A) policy, with a primary focus on augmenting America military footprint in the region. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario (a former ambassador to Washington) stood as among the most enthusiastic supporters of P2A in Asia, pushing for an upgraded Philippine-U.S. security alliance (against China).

SFA Albert del Rosario

Nonetheless, there were several attempts by the Aquino administration to prevent a breakdown in bilateral relations, particularly his highly-controversial refusal to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2010 for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo as well as his high-profile visit to Beijing in 2011. But the Scarborough Shoal crisis in mid-2012 — pitting a Filipino frigate against an armada of Chinese coast guard vessels, and subsequently unleashing Chinese economic sanctions against the Philippines — led to an effective breakdown in bilateral relations. Attempts at backdoor channel diplomacy heavily backfired, leading to acrimonious blame games between Filipino officials and legislators, China refusing to disengage from the contested feature and proceeding with cordoning of the whole area. The Philippines’ decision to initiate compulsory arbitration against China in early-2013 heavily undermined prospects for better bilateral relations under the Xi Jinping administration (2012-2022), which has shown even greater determination to consolidate Chinese claims in the South China Sea. The Aquino administration’s often incendiary rhetoric against China and its decision to welcome greater American rotational military presence in the Philippines, under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), also discouraged Chinese leaders, from President Xi to Premiere Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, from holding even a single high-level dialogue with their Filipino counterparts.

With Filipino officials accusing China of acting like a “bully” and Beijing returning the favor by accusing the Philippines of acting like a “troublemaker”, bilateral relations entered their darkest period in recent memory. As far as the South China Sea disputes are concerned, China holds the upper hand. It is highly unlikely that there will be any significant respite in the ongoing bilateral diplomatic deadlock until a new Filipino leadership, with a more pragmatic streak and subtle diplomatic language, takes over in 2016.



[1] Cable retrieved from the Wikileaks site, see

[2] Cable retrieved from the Wikileaks site, see

“The changing triangular relations between the Philippines, the United States and the People’s Republic China: From Obama, Aquino, and Xi and beyond”


Amado M. Mendoza, Jr. and Richard Javad Heydarian

Part III

It’s complicated between the new frenemies!

Relations between the United States and China were rebooted more than four decades ago when diplomatic relations were re-established between the two powers.  While initial relations between the two were predictably frosty, even hostile (as evident in the Korean war of the early 1950s), the fissures between erstwhile communist comrades afforded the strategic opportunity for the United States to partner with China versus the Soviet Union.  China gained a lot from the normalization though the dimensions were not apparent at the time.  While China gained entry into the United Nations Security Council at Taiwan’s expense as a consequence, the contrasting fates between it and the Soviet Union reveal the full extent of the paybacks.  While the Soviet Union disappeared into the pages of history in the early 1990s, China proved to be the greatest beneficiary of a Western-induced globalization that needed access to China’s relatively cheap labor force and extensive markets created by growing economic prosperity.

Barack Obama

Realist thinkers have long emphasized the tensions and conflict generated by a rising power that will inevitably seek to challenge an extant hegemon.  Complementing Organski’s theories on power transition, Mearsheimer (2001) argued that great powers are not content with existing power but seek hegemony instead for their security.  This is so since they cannot know how much power is enough for present and future needs.  For this compelling reason, Mearsheimer believes that great powers will strive for hegemony now and eliminate the possibility of challengers to best ensure their security.  He also notes however that a state cannot attain global hegemony since the too many oceans can effectively stop power.  States can only achieve regional hegemony   In the most recent update of his treatise, Mearsheimer (2014 and 2014a) elaborates that a rising China will seek to dominate Asia, while the United States, determined to remain the world’s sole regional hegemon, will go to great lengths to prevent that from happening.

Current headlines seem to indicate the verity of Mearsheimer’s words.  Nonetheless, his views are not shared by American IR theorists and practitioners.  The realist par excellence and the grand strategist who helped US President Richard Nixon re-establish ties with China, Henry Kissinger, wrote these words of caution:

An explicit American project to organize Asia on the basis of containing China or creating a bloc of democratic states for an ideological crusade is unlikely to succeed—in part because China is an indispensable trading partner for most of its neighbors. By the same token, a Chinese attempt to exclude America from Asian economic and security affairs will similarly meet serious resistance from almost all other Asian states, which fear the consequences of a region dominated by a single power. The appropriate label for the Sino-American relationship is less partnership than “co-evolution.” It means that both countries pursue their domestic imperatives, cooperating where possible, and adjust their relations to minimize conflict. Neither side endorses all the aims of the other or presumes a total identity of interests, but both sides seek to identify and develop complementary interests (Kissinger 2011).

An opposite view is held by liberal institutionalists.  Liberals argue that China’s membership in international organizations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank has brought benefits and has acculturated China to accept the existence of these same institutions.  In this sense, China is not really an out-and-out revisionist power seeking to alter the world order and institutions.

Whether one is a realist or a liberal theorist, it cannot be denied that economic relations between the two states have grown immensely over the past decades.   A US Congressional Research Service paper (Morrison 2015) reports that U.S.-China economic ties have expanded substantially over the past three decades. Total U.S.-China trade rose from $2 billion in 1979 to $592 billion in 2014.  China is currently the United States’ second-largest trading partner, its third-largest export market, and its biggest source of imports. China is estimated to be a $350 billion market for U.S. firms, based on U.S. direct and indirect exports to China and sales by U.S.-invested firms in China. Many U.S. firms view participation in China’s market as critical to staying globally competitive. General Motors (GM), for example, which has invested heavily in China, sold more cars in China than in the United States each year from 2010 to 2014.  In addition, U.S. imports of low-cost goods from China greatly benefit U.S. consumers, and U.S. firms that use China as the final point of assembly for their products, or use Chinese-made inputs for production in the United States, are able to lower costs. China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities ($1.24 trillion as of December 2014).  China’s purchases of U.S. government debt help keep U.S. interest rates low.

Despite growing commercial ties, the bilateral economic relationship has become increasingly complex and often fraught with tension. From the U.S. perspective, many trade tensions stem from China’s incomplete transition to a free market economy. While China has significantly liberalized it’s economic and trade regimes over the past three decades, it continues to maintain (or has recently imposed) a number of state-directed policies that appear to distort trade and investment flows. Major areas of concern expressed by U.S. policymakers and stakeholders include China’s relatively poor record of intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement and alleged widespread cyber economic espionage against U.S. firms by Chinese government entities; its mixed record on implementing its World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations; its extensive use of industrial policies (such as financial support of state-owned firms, trade and investment barriers, and pressure on foreign-invested firms in China to transfer technology in exchange for market access) in order to promote the development of industries favored by the government and protect them from foreign competition; and its policies to hold down the value of its currency.  Many U.S. policymakers argue that such policies negatively impact U.S. economic interests and have contributed to U.S. job losses.

Chinese President Xi Jinping takes part in a meeting with his French counterpart at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on March 26, 2014 in Paris. Xi was set today to sign a series of major business deals on the second day of a lavish state visit to France.  Xi is on his first-ever European tour and after visiting The Netherlands and France will head to Germany and Belgium.   AFP PHOTO POOL CHRISTOPHE ENA

How important is China in economic terms, especially to the United States?  China has 1.36 billion people, the largest national population in the world. Its economy produced $17.63 trillion in 2014, (based on purchasing power parity), making China the world’s largest economy. The European Union is second at $17.61 trillion, while the United States fell to third place with $17.61 trillion.  However, China is still a relatively poor country. Its economy only produces $12,900 per person, compared to the GDP per capita of $52,800 for the United States.  This allows China to pay its workers less, making its products cheaper, which lures overseas manufacturers to outsource jobs there.  China became the world’s largest exporter in 2013. It exported $2.21 trillion of its production, beating the EU, at $2.173 trillion and the U.S., at $1.575 trillion.   China ships 17% of its exports to the U.S., creating a $315 billion trade deficit in 2012.  China does a lot of manufacturing for foreign corporations, including American firms.  In effect, a lot of China’s exports are actually for American companies for American consumers (Amadeo 2015a).

In addition, China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury bills, bonds and notes[1]. As of May 2015, China owned $1.27 trillion in US treasuries. This amount is a little over one-fifth (or 20.8%) of the $6.1 trillion public debt held by foreign countries (U.S. Treasury 2015).  Owning U.S. treasuries helps China by keeping its yuan weaker vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar, which in turn makes its exports competitive and creates jobs for the Chinese working people.  Specifically, the Chinese hold their currency, the yuan, at a fixed rate compared to a basket of currencies, mainly comprised by the US dollar.  When the dollar falls in value, China buys U.S. treasuries which increases the demand for the dollar and appreciates its value.  On the other hand, the sale of public debt to China allows the U.S. economy to grow by way of increased federal government programs.  This is especially important as the U.S. had been facing budget (albeit shrinking) deficits in recent years (Timaraos 2015).

China’s role as America’s largest banker obviously gives it some political leverage.  Every now and then, China threatens to sell part of its debt holdings. It knows that if it did, U.S. interest rates would rise slowing U.S economic growth.  China does this whenever the U.S. allows the value of the dollar to drop, which makes the debt China holds less valuable.  It is not an unalloyed weapon at the hands of the Chinese, however.  China would not call in its U.S. debt all at once. If it did so, the demand for the dollar would drop like a rock. This dollar collapse would disrupt international markets worse than the 2008 financial crisis. China’s economy would suffer along with everyone else’s.  More likely, China would slowly begin selling off its Treasury holdings. Even when it just warns that it plans to do so, dollar demand starts to drop. This hurts China’s competitiveness, as it raises its export prices, so U.S. consumers start buying U.S.-made products instead. China must further expand its exports to other Asian countries, and increase domestic demand, before it can call in its U.S. debt holdings.  (Amadeo 2015a and Amadeo 2015b).

The extended discussion above illustrates how economically co-dependent the U.S. and China had become in recent years.  This complicates the strategic relationship between the two powers.  In a way, the post-modern and hip concept of being ‘frenemies’ is apropos for both states.  This unprecedented relationship sharply contrasts the US-Soviet relationship during the Cold War.  Notwithstanding the détente period, the enmity between the two is undeniable.  In no way were both powers dependent on each other economically as trade and economic exchanges between the two were largely circumscribed by strategic considerations.  Embargos and trade controls were imposed by the U.S. and its European allies on the Soviet Union.  The basic idea is to prevent the Soviets from strengthening themselves through trade with the West.  No such similar inhibitions informed the U.S. China economic relations.

Both states realize this co-dependence and seek to leverage the fact to each other’s advantage.  From the American viewpoint, China has to weigh the consequences of recklessness and the possible loss of the opportunities and advantages of behaving responsibly within the context of U.S.-led international regime.  On the Chinese side, meanwhile, they seek to find out how much the envelope could be pushed before the Americans decide that strategic considerations are weightier than economic consequences.  The situation is one where two powers need each other but are mindful of power balance between them.  Obviously, being ‘frenemies’ is more complicated and less straightforward than being outright foes.  This dynamic is bound to prevail for decades to come.



[1] The U.S. debt is the sum of all outstanding debt owed by the Federal Government. It’s greater than $18 trillion, and is tracked by the national debt clock. America’s debt is the largest in the world for a single country. It runs neck and neck with that of the European Union, which is an economic union of 28 countries. Nearly two-thirds is the public debt, which is owed to the people, businesses and foreign governments who bought Treasury bills, notes and bonds (Amadeo 2015c).

Assessing Philippine economic negotiations:

Impact of market conditions, negotiators’ beliefs and domestic politics


Amado M. Mendoza, Jr., Ph.D.

Department of Political Science

University of the Philippines




In December 14, 1994, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-Uruguay Round was ratified by the Senate of the Philippines with a 19-5 vote after only a few months of debate.  The Philippines joined GATT in 1973 (Tokyo Round of GATT) as a provisional member. It formally acceded to GATT on January 1, 1980. It participated actively in the “Uruguay Round” negotiations (the 8th Round of GATT Talks), until the Final Act of the GATT Agreement and the WTO Agreement was signed at Marrakesh, Morocco in April 1994. The Philippine Senate ratified the Final Act in December 1994 and became a “founding member” of WTO effective January 1, 1995.

GATT was first established on October 30, 1947 by 25 countries, which did not include the Philippines. This is called “GATT 1947”. (See Appendix “GATT 1947”, containing 36 articles spread in 60 pages, in The Results of the Uruguay Round of MultiLateral Trade Negotiations: The Legal Texts, published by the GATT Secretariat, Geneva, Switzerland, 1994, 558 pp.).  In the case of “GATT 1994”, it took more than seven years of debates and heated negotiations for 117 countries to finally come out with the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations.

The GATT still exists as the WTO’s umbrella treaty for trade in goods, updated as a result of the Uruguay Round negotiations (a distinction is made between GATT 1994, the updated parts of GATT, and GATT 1947, the original agreement which is still the heart of GATT 1994).The GATT 1994 is not, however, the only legally binding agreement included in the Final Act; a long list of about 60 agreements, annexes, decisions and understandings was adopted. In fact, the agreements fall into a simple structure with six main parts:

  • an umbrella agreement (the Agreement Establishing the WTO);
  • agreements for each of the three broad areas of trade that the WTO covers: goods and investment (the Multilateral Agreements on Trade in Goods including the GATT 1994 and the Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS)), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS);
  • dispute settlement (DSU);
  • Agreement on Customs Valuation and
  • reviews of governments’ trade policies (TPRM)

In the Philippines, except for a few newspaper articles, the conclusion of the long-drawn GATT Uruguay Round hardly created a ripple. The importation of rice, after all, has been an open option for the government that it has liberally resorted to, even if there is no actual shortage of rice.

The treaty’s ratification was strongly pushed by President Fidel V. Ramos as part of his overall liberal economic reform program.  The treaty’s champion in the Senate was Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who had a doctoral degree in economics.  As chair-person of the Senate committee on economic affairs and the chamber’s ‘resident economist’, Arroyo managed the rather easy process of the treaty’s ratification.  The terms of the discussion in the Senate was the provision of ‘safety nets’ for those who will be adversely affected by the treaty.  Rejection of the treaty was never considered by a majority of the Senators.  Provision of safety nets meant that most Senators believed that the Treaty’s benefits will far outweigh the costs of safety nets.

To be sure, the treaty was opposed by a group of civil society groups—leftist/populist groups and protectionist business associations.  However, they were unable to sway the senators.  What complicated the situation was that “no one was really for outright rejection of the treaty” (Rocamora, 1996, p. 1).  The treaty was ratified and only after a few years were Senate resolutions passed to assess the impact of the Uruguay round treaty and to review the need for remedial legislation.

In contrast, the ratification of the less-encompassing Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) took a period of two years and a month from the signing of the agreement by the chief executives of Japan and the Philippines in September 9. 2006.  JPEPA was initiated during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s visit to Japan in December 2002.  The formal negotiations between the Philippines and Japan started in February 2004. President Arroyo and then-Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed on major elements of JPEPA in November 2004 that would lead to the immediate removal of tariffs on certain fruits, vehicles, steel products, electronic appliances, and garments.

The JPEPA was signed in Helsinki, Finland on 9 September 2006.While the Japanese Diet ratified the agreement in December 2006, the treaty was almost scuttled in the Philippine Senate due to environmental and constitutional issues.  The Japanese Embassy issued two diplomatic notes to remedy these concerns.  The treaty was finally ratified on 10 October 2008, more than four years after negotiations started in February 2004.  To be sure, the treaty’s ratification had to contend with external issues and problems (especially the stability of President Arroyo’s rule) and including stronger civil society opposition to JPEPA.  On balance however, the dynamics within the Senate was still decisive.

In early August 1999, the Philippines decided to scrap a three-year-old air service agreement with Taiwan.  Manila’s decision to end the accord comes in the wake of allegations by Philippine air transport authorities that Taiwan’s commercial planes have been abusing their rights under the pact to the detriment of local airlines such as the debt-ridden Philippine Airlines. News reports said Taiwan has been using bigger aircraft such as Boeing 747 planes instead of Airbus 737 planes stipulated in the agreement. The agreement between the Manila Economic Cooperation Office (MECO) and Taiwan Economic Cooperation Office (TECO) — which handle economic exchanges between Manila and Taipei in the absence of formal diplomatic ties — allows China Airlines and EVA Airways Corp. to service the Taipei-Manila route daily. Manila’s decision to scrap its air accord with Taipei was a risky decision since it could lead to the souring of relations between Manila and Taipei. Taiwan has substantial investments in the Philippines, while the Philippines had been sending workers, including more than 100,000 Filipino domestic workers, to Taiwan. The Philippines — which maintains its so-called “one-China” policy with mainland China — has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. (AEN, 1999a).

Chief air service negotiator for the Philippines and foreign affairs undersecretary Franklin Ebdalin explained that the aggressive move was intended to “teach the Taiwanese a lesson” (Ebdalin, 2009).  The Philippines took a huge gamble; a one year notice is usually required for abrogation but only a month’s heads-up was given.  The Philippine move eventually boomeranged—Taiwanese investors moved out of the country; Taiwanese tourists to the Philippines decreased; and Filipino labor exports to Taiwan also dropped.  For example, visitor arrivals from Taiwan plummeted from 10,273 in September 1999 to 6,764 in October 1999,   to around 5,000 by mid-2000. Furthermore, with the suspension of the air agreement, it became more expensive for Taiwan-based Filipino workers to return home.

In the light of these developments, the Philippines had to eat ‘humble pie’.   By mid-November 1999, President Estrada sent aides to Taiwan to negotiate for a preliminary air agreement.   By end-September 2000, Estrada and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) gave in to a new agreement similar to the 1996 agreement after getting pressures from overseas workers in Taiwan, the business sector, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The 9,600-seat-weekly quota for Taiwanese carriers was restored including the sixth-freedom rights to both countries’ national carriers.

What can we learn from these three disparate episodes of Philippine economic diplomacy?  What accounted for the miscalculations behind the unilateral abrogation of the air service agreement between the Philippines and Taiwan?  Why was the ratification of the more encompassing GATT-Uruguay round treaty relatively problem-free compared to the ratification of the less encompassing Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA)?

Some observations

The key problem currently confronting the Philippine state with respect to its economic diplomacy is the relative imbalance between state capacity and the requirements of economic openness.  Several economists (notably Dani Rodrik) have noted that industrial states grew (or that government spending grew as a share of GDP) to provide insurance and assistance to constituents that will be adversely affected by the vagaries of the international economy.   Otherwise, the political commitment to economic openness could not be maintained.  In contrast, the Philippine state is relatively puny given its weak capacity to extract resources from society and thus could not provide adequate safety nets.  Nevertheless, there is policy commitment to economic openness as elites have learned to adjust to and profit from non-protectionist regimes since the fall of Marcos.

In its early decades, the Philippines’ foreign trade regime could be characterized as mere ‘colonial openness’ since much of its foreign economic relations was with the United States.  This economic regime is the analogue of the military protectorate status the country had vis-à-vis the US.  Foreign economic relations will diversify in the subsequent decades largely in response to the relative decline and retreat of the US from the Asia Pacific and the rise of new economic powers in the region (from Japan to the other NEA dragons including China) as well as renewed European interest in the region.  The Middle East also became a major foreign economic policy concern because of oil and contractual labor exports.

The Marcos dictatorship represented a significant change in the country’s foreign economic relations for several reasons.  While the recourse to foreign capital was not novel, the dictatorship was able to secure massive foreign loans that led to the foreign debt crisis of the 1980s.  In addition, the exportation of contractual labor to the Middle East became government policy during these years.  The increased importance of Japan as an economic partner was likewise effected during the Marcos years.  In addition, the regime attempted to copy the strategic industrial policy of South Korea in the late 1970s while it successfully increased military aid monies from the United States.  The failure of the regime to use these generous funds productively and their diversion elsewhere was one of the key reasons behind its collapse.

Since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, the country’s leaders have fully embraced the neoliberal economic program by acceding to the Uruguay Round-WTO treaty and other liberal international and regional agreements (such as APEC and AFTA).  This commitment was maintained even as the economy was shocked by the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s and which also allowed a populist to temporarily gain the presidency.  In the process, international economic actors (including non-traditional ones such as the ratings agencies) have gained greater leverage in the formulation of domestic economic policy, esp. in taxation and money laundering.  Thus an assessment of the country’s economic diplomacy must also review how the state has responded to the transformative and sovereignty-diminishing pressures of economic openness and globalization.

Diplomacy is traditionally defined as the operationalization of a state’s foreign policy as it relates to other states.  Implicit in this traditional view is the notion that diplomacy is the exclusive domain of a state’s ministry of foreign affairs (MOFA).  Analogously, economic diplomacy is seen as the translation of a state’s foreign economic policy into practice.  Nonetheless, diplomacy has evolved over time with changes in its nature and identity of diplomats.  In recent decades, globalization and democratization had led to ‘mutations of economic diplomacy’ (Saner & Yiu, n.d.).  While traditional state-to-state diplomacy continues, it is being fragmented and complicated due to participation of a growing number of state (apart from the MOFA) and non-state actors (e.g. firms, supranational/international organizations, and non-governmental organizations). In addition, many states and their constituents had developed increased expectations regarding the benefits accruing from economic diplomacy.

Melissen (1999,  xvi-xvii) thus offers the most succinct definition of contemporary foreign policy and diplomacy by stating: ‘[Diplomacy] is defined as the mechanism of representation, communication and negotiation through which states and other international actors conduct their business’.  Saner and Yiu (n.d.) further observe that new entrants to the diplomatic arena represent different groupings of local, national, and international interests.  These co-existing but divergent actors engage in diverse forms of diplomatic activity to achieve their objectives.  They categorize these newly emerged diplomatic functions and roles in the following manner:


Table 1  Divergent Postmodern Diplomatic Roles


Functions Roles
State Actors Economic DiplomacyCommercial Diplomacy Economic DiplomatsCommercial Diplomats
Non-state Actors Corporate diplomacyBusiness diplomacyNational NGOs

Transnational NGOs

Corporate diplomatsBusiness diplomatsNational NGO diplomats

Transnational NGO diplomats

Source: Saner & Yiu (n.d.)


Economic diplomacy is concerned with economic policy issues, e.g. work of delegations at standard setting organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Bank of International Settlements (BIS).  Economic diplomats also monitor and report on economic policies in foreign countries and give home government advice on how to best influence them.  Economic diplomacy employs economic resources, either as rewards or sanctions, in pursuit of a particular foreign policy objective.  This is sometimes called “economic statecraft”.[1]


Governments are also keen to support national economic development by providing support to their own enterprises for instance in the form of export advice, legal assistance, export incentives and backstopping when needed.  Such support includes helping national enterprises establish subsidiaries in other markets.  At the same time, their function can also involve the provision of support to foreign enterprises interested in investing in the respective country.

Commercial diplomacy describes the work of diplomatic missions in support of the home country’s business and finance sectors in their pursuit of economic success and the country’s general objective of national development.  It includes the promotion of inward and outward investment and trade.  Important aspects of a commercial diplomat’s work is supplying of information about export and investment opportunities and acting as hosts to trade missions from home (Scholte, 2000, 38-39).  In some cases, commercial diplomats could also promote economic ties through advising and support of both domestic and foreign companies for investments decisions.

The fine distinctions drawn by Saner and Yiu between the economic and commercial diplomatic roles and functions carried out by state actors may be most relevant for advanced industrial economies given their relatively greater resources and institutional capacities.  It is not be entirely relevant for developing economies like the Philippines.  It may be a question how thoroughly these roles and functions are met and how diplomatic work is divided among state actors.  To the extent that resources and capacities are scarce, then work on both fronts is merged.  Work in standard setting organizations such as the WTO is most likely assigned to specialized agencies while the national embassy or consulate in a foreign country will be loaded with diverse tasks through the attaché system and country-team approach.

However, given the growing complexity of the global political economy, many governments have broadened the participation of ministries specialized in economic and financial matters leading to a dilution of the influence and role of MOFAs.

For example, the Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) was entered into  with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) serving as co-chairmen of the preparatory and negotiating committee (more on this topic later).  The body was inter-agency in composition and drew members from specialized bodies such as Department of Agriculture, Board of Investments, and the Tariff Commission, among others (See Executive Order 213, 2003).  The language of EO 213 indicated that the DTI representative was the ‘senior’ co-chairman and that the DFA representative was the ‘junior’ one.[2]  Interviews with informed sources also indicate this was actually the practice (Interview, December 2008, name withheld upon request).  In addition, DTI Secretary Peter Favila acknowledged chairmanship of the JPEPA negotiating panel during and DFA officials were virtually absent during the Senate public hearings on the treaty in 2007.

Larger context of economic diplomacy

Notwithstanding the salience of non-state actors in post-modern economic diplomacy, this chapter will focus on the economic diplomatic work of Philippine state actors.  This focus is a result of the recognition of the dueling logics of markets and states in the international political economy (Cohn,  2008; Gilpin, 2001).  Liberal economists have long argued that free trade among nations leads to win-win outcomes for all countries when based on the principle of comparative advantage.  If that is the case, why would trade protectionism exist or even appear to be increasing?  Cronin (2003: 371) asks why a government, even if it finds it difficult to persuade other countries to open up their markets, does not unilaterally remove its own barriers to trade since its citizens will benefit with access to more products and at cheaper prices.  Furthermore, increased imports will inject competitive pressures into the domestic economy.


Cronin (2002, 371) observes that nowhere do we see governments unilaterally removing all barriers to trade.  Instead, liberalization efforts are often used as bargaining chips for access to foreign markets while protectionism, in various guises, is given to favored industries.  The explanation for this apparently economically irrational phenomenon is the fact that international economic transactions take place in a world of nation-states.  With no supranational authority to dictate trade rules, much less enforce them, state economic policies are driven primarily by domestic concerns.  Opposing the inclusive economic logic of free markets is the exclusive (or excluding) logic of the sovereign state.

Since the appearance of nation-states centuries ago, governments have often approached trade from a mercantilist point of view—in terms of relative gains (how much my state gains relative to another state) instead of absolute gains (how much all trading states gain) and with careful attention to international trade’s domestic costs.  Trade becomes an obvious tool for the accumulation of wealth and power by one’s own country—and by potential enemies as well.  Even if a country were not belligerent by a predisposition, the anarchic international environment forces each state to rely upon itself for its security—hence its sensitivity to relative gains.  Furthermore, increased trade flows could lead to job losses and plant closures so dear to liberal economists as efficiency enhancing.  On the other hand, politicians are acutely aware of the political costs to be paid if the losers from free trade are ignored.  As a result, governments conduct economic negotiations with the goal of gaining as much market access abroad while conceding as little as possible at home.

While systemic realist theory (Waltz, 1979) accords all states with functional similarity, it also recognizes the unequal capacities of states.  Some states are richer, more powerful, and have greater capacities than others.  These states therefore have stronger bargaining positions vis-à-vis less capable states especially in bilateral settings.  In a sense, stronger states are rule-makers while weaker states are rule-takers.[3]  The power disparity is most stark in a bilateral setting.  The formation of international organizations represents attempt to move away from a power-based to a rule-based regime in an anarchic international system.  In multilateral settings such as the WTO, weaker states can possibly improve their bargaining position by coalescing with each other (see Gonzales paper).  Schneider (2008) also identify critical conjunctures (as opposed to phases of routine operations) which provide weaker states with opportunities to increase their bargaining leverage with respect to more powerful members and explain why powerful states provide costly side payments to weaker states that generally cannot force them to do so.  Singh (2006) meanwhile calls our attention to crossover coalitions (encompassing developed and developing countries) that offer novel possibilities.

Apart from uneven state capacities, values or ideology can impact on economic negotiations.  Landau (2000) observes that apart from a period in the 1970s and 1980s when economic negotiations were characterized by ideological rhetoric between developed and developing countries and conflict between them reached high intensity, economic negotiations moved to more concrete and technical aspects of market access, or trade barriers from the 1990s onwards.  Trade negotiations no longer seek to resolve differences between developed and developing countries, but rather focus on managing the common objective of liberalizing international trade even though it may encroach more and more on wholly domestic issues.  The “ideology” of liberalization is the prerequisite accepted by all negotiators and these shared values of free trade and the market economy enlarge the boundary of international economic negotiations beyond traditional trade and investment concerns.  Economic negotiations have therefore become more interest-loaded, contrary to political negotiations, which deal with value-loaded issues.  Still there are exceptions like agriculture, where negotiators and government can face powerful value-based veto groups back home.

Domestic politics and group activity shape a country’s trade policy and thus deeply affect economic negotiations.  Economic negotiations involve a vast array of actors all of whom advocate their interests and seek to influence both the outcome and conduct of negotiations.  This complex web of actors and practices is always in motion, animated by efforts of individuals, groups and organizations to advance their interests.

I have argued elsewhere (Mendoza 2004) that despite the complexity and diversity of actors and practices, economic policy and negotiation analysis must be focused on institutional actors and processes rather than on all involved stakeholders or a macro-analytical ‘all-stakeholders’ framework favored by previous scholarship. I called this approach the micro-analytical ‘formal policy-maker’ frame.  Domestic interest groups may want to influence negotiation processes and outcomes but can do so through existing institutional arrangements.  They may approach formal actors informally (as in their private offices or at the golf links) but their demands must be taken up by the designated negotiators and policy makers.


Foreign policy making, including foreign economic policy making, is the province of the executive, particularly the president.  As pointed out in Ed Gonzalez’ paper, the Philippine foreign policy bureaucracy within the executive department is composed of three issue complexes—diplomatic, economic affairs, and security.  The economic complex is less recognized compared to the two other complexes largely because there is no key agency that advises the president and coordinates economic matters with other policy actors.  There is no equivalent to South Korea’s powerful Economic Planning Board (EPB) headed by the deputy prime minister.  A plethora of executive departments and agencies—DOF, DA, OWWA, POEA, DOLE, DTI, NEDA, DOE, DOT, DENR plus ad hoc presidential advisers—handle international economic matters.  In addition, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Monetary Board should be considered as part of the economic complex given their role in exchange rate and other monetary matters.

Indeed, this complex faces various collective action problems given each agency’s particular mandates, agendas, and resources.  If this is true even with respect to executive departments under the president, the inclusion of the supposedly independent (of the president) bodies such as the BSP complicates matters.  The legislative and judicial branches of government play secondary roles in foreign economic policy making as well as the conduct of economic diplomacy.  In recent years, the most visible participation of the legislative branch was the Senate’s ratification of the Uruguay Round-WTO treaty in 1994.  In this sense, only a half of the legislature is involved since the House does not have a defined role in treaty ratification.  The Supreme Court gets into picture largely through its judicial review powers.  The constitutionality of economic treaties and agreements could be ruled on by the Court even as post-Marcos presidents have sought refuge in executive agreements that do not require Senate ratification.

While the degree of complexity and severity of collective action problems plaguing the foreign policy establishment has not been constant since 1946 up to the present, one can safely surmise that it had been growing across time.  This is but the natural result of the growing complexity of the country’s foreign (economic) relations as well as its changing character (from open-colonial to neoliberal) and the corresponding growth and complexity of the economic diplomacy establishment.  An assessment of the country’s economic diplomacy will necessarily analyze the impact of such complexity and CAP severity on foreign economic relations goals and objectives across time.

Theoretical framework: Examining economic diplomacy

The outcomes of economic negotiations are best studied using a theoretical framework that incorporates market conditions, domestic politics, negotiators’ beliefs, and strategies, among others (Odell, 2000).  Diplomacy is traditionally defined as the operationalization of a state’s foreign policy as it relates to other states.  It was also thought to be the exclusive province of a state’s ministry of foreign affairs.  However, diplomacy evolved over time the most notable of which is its fragmentation into different types.  Economic diplomacy is one specific type of diplomacy and is the translation of a state’s foreign economic policy into practice.  It is obviously no longer the domain of the foreign affairs ministry and requires the participation of specialized agencies such as the economic planning, trade, and finance ministries.

A key activity in economic diplomacy is economic bargaining or negotiation.  Economic negotiations are those in which parties’ demands, offers, and related actions refer to the production, movement or exchange of goods, services, investments (including ODA), money, information, or their regulation.  They cover trade, finance, transportation, communication, and investment.  While it is usually thought that negotiation involves division of gains, it also involves the possibility of enlarging the pie.  The co-existence of conflict and cooperation is a key element.   Negotiation is not limited to manipulative behavior designed to take advantage of an ‘opponent’ nor is it only accommodation and conflict resolution.

Unlike security negotiations, economic negotiations are sensitive to concrete market market conditions.  For instance, market conditions help determine which parties will negotiate with each other.    Those who trade heavily oon a good will most likely participate in the negotiations to liberalize trade in that good. This definition does not cover economic sanctions and statecraft driven by security and other non-economic purposes or negotiations mixing economic and non-economic issues.  An example of the latter would be RP-US negotiations over military basing rights and economic/military aid before 1991.

Negotiators are the key actors in any negotiation.  Their objectives include economic, domestic-political, and relational.  Their key objective is realize gain or minimize loss for the state-party they represent.  There are other objectives as well.  The negotiators may want to maintain or increase the popularity of his chief executive or the ruling party.  This may be particularly important if the rulling chief executive or party faces a strong political challenge back home.  Last but not least, the the negottiators seek to maintain or increase his country’s future influence with other parties.

No matter the level of education and training and extent of negotiating experience, negotiators   will use rules of thumb for estimating consequences (of a given proposal or strategy) and evaluating alternative courses of action.  This conception of bounded rationality entails the premise that the international economic negotiator will lack theoretically complete information about the situation—such as how markets will trend in the future, the other side’s true reservation value or resistance point (or ‘non-negotiables’ in layman’s language), what deals the other might be persuaded to consider a gain, or how moves will affect markets and domestic politics both abroad and at home.  Our decision maker necessarily substitutes simplified rules of thumb for estimating consequences and putting rough values on alternative courses of action.

In summary, Odell’s model stipulate that market conditions and negotiators’ beliefs impact  on negotiating strategies.  In addition, domestic politics works with these two other variables to affect the outcomes of economic negotiations.  What strategic options do negotiators have?

  • Value-claiming or distributive behavior
    • a set of actions that promote the attainment of a party’s goals when they are in conflict with those of the other party
    • Offensive claiming tactics attempt to take value from the other, whereas defensive claiming tactics aim to prevent the other from taking value from the first
  • Value-creating or integrative behavior
    • actions that promote the attainment of goals that are not in fundamental conflict—actions designed to expand the rather than split the pie
    • Pure value-creating behavior has not been documented often in international economic negotiations


An example of a value-claiming negotiating strategy was that taken by the United States when it wanted to legalize what it was actually doing in Clark Air Base with their cargo planes.  The Philippines responded with the same strategy and asked that the Philippine Airlines be allowed to fly passengers and cargo from Honolulu and Guam to the US mainland.   The US negotiators refused and claimed that the proposed flights from Honolulu and Guam were in violation of US law.  Only domestic airlines can fly within the United States.  The US negotiators also turned around and approached Marcos directly.  Eventually, a presidential decree was issued to grant what the US negotiators desired.  This is a case of pure offensive value-claiming behavior (Interview with Zapanta, February 2009).

Value-creating or integrative behavior are actions that promote the attainment of goals that are not in fundamental conflict—actions designed to expand the rather than split the pie.  However, pure value-creating behavior has not been documented often in international economic negotiations.

What are the outcomes of negotiations?  One is an impasse or stalemate which the negotiating parties try to resolve.  Another is agreement which include tacit or informal settlementor  a pattern of government behavior that is equivalent to compliance with an explicit agreement.  The outcome of international economic negotiations refers to the terms of the governments’ settlement rather than the behavior of the markets after that settlement.  In many jurisdictions, the economic agreement is considered that must be ratified by the proper legislative chamber.  Strictly speaking however, the ratifiction of an international economic agreement is no longer part of the negotiation process.  It belongs to the realm of domestic politics.

How are negotiating outcomes assessed?  Intuitively, this question is answered by asking another question.  Did a party gain or lose?  Nonetheless, any notion of gain orr loss implies some reference point.  This could be the value of the status quo ante (SQA).  Relative to SQA, did both parties come out better (win-win); did one come out better and another worse (win-lose); did both parties come out worse (lose-lose); or did all the gains of one party obtained at the expense of the other (zero-sum)?   An assessment according to SQA is not problem-free.  A negative evaluation in this sense can be unfair to the negotiator.  If a party’s BATNA or fallback position worsens after the bargaining has begun, a rational negotiator may decide to accept a win-lose agreement, if to refuse to do so would make his side still worse off.

Another reference point is BATNA.  In negotiation theory, the best alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA is the course of action that will be taken by a party if the current negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. BATNA is the key focus and the driving force behind a successful negotiator. A party should generally not accept a worse resolution than its BATNA. In this sense, the BATNA is the bottom line, the non-negotiable position.  Care should be taken, however, to ensure that deals are accurately valued, taking into account all considerations, such as relationship value, time value of money and the likelihood that the other party will live up to their side of the bargain. These other considerations are often difficult to value, since they are frequently based on uncertain or qualitative considerations, rather than easily measurable and quantifiable factors.  This means that appreciation of BATNAs are a subjective exercise on the part of negotiators.

From a BATNA viewpoint,  a gain means a situation that will be better for the negotiator’s  objectives than the situation that would have prevailed had he chosen his BATNA instead.   On the other hand, If he believes he has a better alternative, why will he settle for the deal on the table?  Furthermore, why would he reject the deal if he can find no better alternative today?

The assessment of negotiation outcomes from the BATNA reference point is not without drawbacks.  Gains and losses are partly speculative and more difficult to identify by consensus.  The negotiator must speculate about what will happen to his side under each scenario.  The analyst (studying the negotiations) must try to discover what negotiators believed would happen under these alternatives, or must approximate by speculating what would have happened if the actual outcome had not been reached.

Odell’s theoretical model and Philippine economic negotiation episodes

The first negotiation episode to consider is the Philippne Japan Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation.  This episode reveals how favorable market condictions and negotiators’ beliefs were thwarted by domestic politics and frustrate the agreement between the two parties.  A change in political regime—the declaration of martial law—in the Philippines must occur before President Marcos could declare the treaty as ratified.  Philippine-Japan relations after the second world war were at best cold. Japan was considered an enemy until a peace treaty is concluded.  It was General Douglas MacArthur who pressured the Philippines into a peace agreement with Japan.  MacArthur wanted to lasso Japan into the anti-Communist camp against the Soviet Union and Peoples’ Republic of China.  From then on, trade and economic relations between the two grew steadily specially with the Reparations Program.  However, the absence of a treaty of amity, commerce and navigation (TACN) was a natural barrier to the further growth in Japan-Philippine economic relations.

Those in favor of the TACN between the two countries argued that it will provide a steady and formal framework that will govern capital flows from Japan and the bilateral trade between the Philippines and Japan.  Those who were not in favor argued that the TACN was not necessary since bilateral economic ties flourished even in its absence.  Politicians who were wary of popular sentiments against the Japanese because of the Second World War balked at sponsoring the treaty for Senate ratiification.  President Carlos P. Garcia hesitated to seek ratification believing it will jeopardize his bid for re-election.  He lost anyway.  His successor, President Diosdado Macapagal, similalrly had cold feet.

Economics did not immediately figure in Philippine-Japan relations after the Second World War.  The Philippine government adopted the policy of  considering Japan as an enemy until a peace treaty was signed. The realities of politics and economics, however, prevailed. Thus, as the peace treaty awaited finalization, and issues, such as the trial of the prisoners of war and Japan’s reparations payment to the Philippines awaited solutions, trade between Japan and the Philippines, although limited, was resumed as early as 1947.

It was MacArthur who, in behalf of Japan, entered into a trade agreement with the Philippine government in 1947, through which cement and other construction materials from Japan were exchanged for Philippine sugar and coconut oil.[i] The following year, MacArthur appealed again to the Philippine government to expand trade with Japan. There were objections from the press, the more militant private citizens, and some members of the business sector, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and other Filipino officials and opinion leaders who were able to transcend the emotional hurt of the war, prevailed. They opined that if the Philippines continued to refuse trade with Japan, it would eventually lose in the international market, for Japan would turn to other countries to get the raw materials she needed.

The total value of Philippine export of raw materials (sugar, hemp, coconut oil, iron ore, and others) to Japan in 1947  was only  4.6 million pesos. It increased to 31 million in 1948, and 22.6 million in 1949. Philippine importation of Japanese textiles, kitchen ware, toys, cement, and other finished products also gradually increased: from a total value of 2 million pesos in 1947, to 2.2 million in 1948, and  32.2 million in 1949.  On 18 May 1950, a Financial Agreement for Trade and a Trade Agreement were signed between Japan and the Philippines to put more order in the exchange of goods between the two countries. These agreements, together with annual trade plans, became the guide for trade between Japan and the Philippines, pending ratification of the reparations agreement and the Peace Treaty.

Since trade between the Philippines and Japan was controlled through the trade plans, the balance of trade was, except in 1949 and 1951, in favor of the Philippines. Major Japanese exports to the Philippines were textiles, iron and steel products, machinery and equipment supplies for manufactures, glass and porcelain, chemicals and chemical products, farm equipment, ships, fishing boats, fishing equipment and supplies, and other finished products.  Major Philippine exports to Japan were iron ore, manganese ore, chrome ore, molasses, logs and lumber, rattan, mangrove bark, gum copal, buffalo hides, hide fleshing, shells for buttons, kapok or kapok seeds, ramie, copra, abaca, and other raw materials.


Philippine business and the press remained wary of  allowing the Japanese to export finished products to the Philippines and to import Philippine natural resources. Such cautious attitudes arose from the antagonism Filipinos felt towards the Japanese due to the war, memories of the prewar Japanese activities in the Philippines, knowledge of the phenomenal economic recovery of postwar Japan, and the fear that the Philippines might remain a supplier of raw materials to industrialized Japan. Debates about opening the Philippines to Japanese trade would resurface when the 1950 Trade agreement and the Financial Agreement would have to be reviewed upon the restoration of normal relations between the Philippines and Japan.

The US practically forced the Philippines to sign the Peace Treaty with Japan in San Francisco.  Before signing the Peace Treaty with Japan in San Francisco on 8 September 1951, Carlos P. Romulo delivered a speech, wherein he emphasized among other things, that the Philippines reserved the right to negotiate with the government of Japan the payment of reparations to the Philippines. The initial Philippine demands consisted of payment by Japan of 16,000 million pesos for actual damages suffered by the Filipino people under the Japanese occupation;  payment of this amount within ten to fifteen years, with partial or interim reparations to be made immediately available to the Philippines even before conclusion of the reparations agreement.

These demands were not acceptable to the Japanese government for several reasons. In Japan’s interpretation, the spirit of the San Francisco Peace Treaty excluded payment of cash to claimants, and the treaty stipulated that Japan’s reparations obligation was limited to its ability to pay, regardless of whether the reparations covered actual damage. The Japanese government insisted that maintenance of a viable economy for Japan constituted the spirit of the peace treaty, and that if it had to pay all the claims of all the countries it devastated, its economy would be ruined.

In December 1952 Wajima Eiji, director of the Asian Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came to Manila and submitted a list of services which Japan was ready to render as war compensation. Among the services in the list were the salvage of sunken vessels, and various forms of services and skills required in processing raw materials. He further explained that “services” specified in the list included jobs yet to be undertaken, as well as skills and labor already put in the existing stocks of machinery,  equipment, and other products. Only the value of “services” involved in their processing or manufacturing would be considered as reparations. The non-services cost of these items should be paid by the Philippines in cash or in raw materials.

The Japanese stand and their tendency to take cover under the lenient Peace Treaty elicited protests from Philippine government officials, who described the Japanese as arrogant. As the negotiations dragged, actual salvaging of vessels started in June 1955 in Manila and Cebu. Some fifty Japanese salvage men lived in a compound of the North Harbor in Manila.

It must be remembered that the Peace Treaty had not been ratified yet, and that technically, the Philippines and Japan were still at war. The Quirino administration could not persuade the opposition Nacionalista Party to ratify the treaty before settlement of the reparations question. Quirino argued that the treaty stipulated a collective security agreement, which was put there on Philippine initiative, and this agreement could not be enforced without a ratified treaty. For the Nacionalistas, on the other hand, the reparations payment was the most important issue in Philippine-Japan relations and had to be resolved first; they were less worried about security for after all, the United States was under obligation to defend the Philippines in case of attack.

Pending the restoration of normal Philippine-Japan relations, temporary diplomatic arrangements had to be made, if only to provide venues for the two countries to communicate. A Philippine Mission had been established in Tokyo in 1948 with Jose Maria Espino as representative. Since the Philippines was already a sovereign state, she had the power to establish a mission in Japan. But Japan had to wait until the end of the American occupation in 1952 before she could establish a mission in the Philippines. The Philippine government set as a condition for accepting the mission that no former employee of the military or civil government of Japan in the Philippines would be sent. Nakagawa Tôru became the first Japanese representative to the Philippines.

But the reparations negotiations remained problematical. In the Philippines, Quirino’s successor, Ramon Magsaysay, inherited the problem, as did Hatoyama Ichirô in Japan. On 9 October 1954  Magsaysay designated Felino Neri to head the new reparations panel. Neri visited Japan in May 1955 to conduct negotiations on a political level, to parallel the technical talks earlier organized between Japanese and Philippine panels. Finally, on 27 April 1956, following four years of bilateral negotiations, Caesar Lanuza, head of the Philippine technical panel, and Urabe Toshio, the Japanese chief of mission in the Philippines, initialed the reparations agreement. On 9 May 1956 the official signing of the reparations agreement was held in Malacañang;

The final reparations agreement provided for payment by Japan within twenty years of a total amount of US$ 550 million in the form of capital goods and services. In addition, Japanese private firms would extend to private Filipino firms economic development loans of US$250 million on a purely commercial basis.

On 29 May and 3 June, the Lower House and the Upper House, respectively, of the Japanese Diet ratified the agreement. The Japanese reaction to the final reparations agreement was generally favorable. Many in the business sector welcomed it as an opportunity for Japanese firms to resume interests in the natural resources of the Philippines, and to expand trade with the country.  Some sectors, however, deplored the fact that the Philippines turned down joint ventures as a way of carrying out reparations projects.

The Philippine Senate, after much heated debate, ratified the treaty on 16 July 1956, with nineteen “yeas” against three “nos” and one abstention.  One member was absent. The senators pointed out many defects of the treaty, but on the whole, their criticism was focused on the observation that the reparations agreement was not a real payment for the damages done by Japan to the Philippines, but rather,  an effective tool for Japan to expand its trade with the Philippines, exploit Philippine natural resources, and realize peacefully its dream of a co-prosperity sphere, which it failed to achieve through war. The prevailing mood in the Senate was one of dissatisfaction, but those who voted affirmatively for it did so in the realization that under the circumstances, this final accord was the best they could get.

On the same day that the reparations agreement was ratified, the Senate moved for a vote on the resolution to ratify the Peace Treaty with Japan, which had been waiting for such action since 1951. With eighteen affirmative votes, the Peace Treaty was ratified, and normal relations with Japan were finally restored.   Of the U.S.$550 million to be delivered by Japan, an average of $25 million was provided annually for the first ten years, and $30 million for the next ten. However, negotiations for and procurement of reparation goods did not go smoothly; there were difficulties in arriving at agreements between the Philippine and Japanese governments.  By July 1960, the end of the fourth reparations year, there remained about U.S. $6.22 million worth of due reparations goods and services undelivered.

Nevertheless, after twenty years, the Japanese government happily announced on 22 July 1976 the end of the reparations period, and the beginning of a new partnership. The reparations were used primarily for six basic development projects, namely, public works (34.7% or  $182.7 million), transportation (19.1% or $100.4 million), industries (15.6% or $82.1million), agriculture and fishery (7.4% or $38.9 million), electric power (3% or $15.6 million), mineral resources (0.6% or $3.3 million), and others (19.6% or $103.2 million), such as education, survey and salvage of sunken vessels, training of Filipino technicians and craftsmen in Japan, research laboratory and equipment, coast and geodetic survey equipment, reclamation of foreshore land and swamps, and transportation, insurance, packing, handling and inspection of reparations machinery, equipment, and others.


During the twenty-year reparations period, contact between the Philippines and Japan primarily revolved around economic relations. Reparations delivery and utilization, as well as possibilities of formalizing trade relations between Japan and the Philippines were just one of them; others were about loans and grants and financial and technical cooperation.  As soon as normal relations between the Philippines and Japan were restored, the Japanese government and the business sector exerted all efforts to expand trade with the Philippines. Philippine reactions to these Japanese overtures were divided. The executive branch was generally in favor, while some legislators and businessmen were against it. In spite of the lack of consensus, diplomatic and political contacts between the Philippines and Japan in the first seventeen years after the ratification of the Peace Treaty were geared towards the conclusion of a treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation. It did not mean, however, that accelerated Japanese participation in Philippine economy waited this long.

The Trade Agreement and Financial Agreement between the Philippines and Japan which was signed in 1950 expired on 31 December 1956. Trading under these agreements had been problematic. It was difficult both for Japan and the Philippines to cash the amounts of imports and exports. Japan found compliance with Philippine rules on customs duties exasperating. On the other hand, the Philippines enjoyed a favorable balance of trade with Japan, and the dollar reserves of the Philippines increased because of the controls provided by these agreements. Therefore, despite problems met in the implementation of the agreements, and even though the Japanese pressed hard for its replacement with a more permanent trade treaty, the Philippine government decided to extend the two 1950 agreements up to 1957 (Commerce, 1957).

When the trade and financial agreements expired in July 1957, there was still no permanent trade treaty with Japan, and many more years would pass without a treaty.  Commercial relations between the Philippines and Japan continued under a 1958 Exchange of Notes signed by the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Felixberto M. Serrano and the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Yukawa Morio.

On 1 December 1958 President Garcia left for Japan to start a 5-day state visit. Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke had visited the Philippines the previous year. In his departure speech at the airport, President Garcia exhorted the Filipinos to consign to the past the hatred they had towards the Japanese. In Tokyo, the president addressed a joint session of the Japanese Diet, and admitted that there was still lingering “ill-will” in the Philippines because of the Japanese occupation of the country; but that he desired to “lead my people in writing a new chapter in Japan-Philippine relations, one that shall be characterized by friendship and cordiality (Marquez and Abiera-Marquez, 1974).  A joint communiqué was issued on the occasion of this visit, wherein the Japanese government agreed to extend a loan for the construction of the multi-purpose Marikina dam and the modernization of the country’s communications system, within the framework of the Reparations Agreement. The joint communiqué also mentioned that the two countries agreed to consider at the appropriate time the possibility of working out a treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation. While a TACN was still to be finalized, both would encourage greater trade and commerce between them (Foreign Service Institute, 1985).

Actual negotiations between the Filipino and Japanese panels began in April 1960 in Tokyo, when reparations payment was only on its fourth year. Jose P. Laurel, the former president of the Second Philippine Republic, was the chairman of the Philippine panel; Yukawa Morio, Ambassador of Japan to the Philippines, chaired the Japanese panel. On 9 December, the treaty was signed. In October 1961 the Japanese Diet ratified it. President Garcia decided against submitting the treaty to the Senate for ratification, for it might jeopardize his re-election bid. Just the same, he lost the election to Diosdado Macapagal. The new president  procrastinated on the issue of ratification.

On 5 to 10 November 1962 Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko visited the Philippines.  Although the treaty of amity, commerce and navigation was not on the official agenda, it was the common belief that the aim of the imperial couple’s visit was to charm the Philippine public and government officials to ratify the treaty. In October 1963, Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato visited the Philippines, and stressed the importance of the early ratification of the treaty. On 28 to 30 September 1966, Ferdinand Marcos, who became President in December 1965, visited Tokyo. This visit was returned by Prime Minister Sato Eisaku on 18 to 21 October of the following year. During the visit, Prime Minister Sato assured President Marcos of Japanese financial support for his infrastructure projects, and pointed to the importance of the ratification of the treaty.

Aside from exchange of visits between the chief executives of Japan and the Philippines, Japan also sent a number of  goodwill missions to the Philippines. All of these missions emphasized the importance of ratifying the treaty of amity, commerce and navigation. All failed in this particular part of their mission.  The uphill climb of the treaty of amity, commerce and navigation between Japan and the Philippines was not only due to the scars of war. It was also  because of a number of provisions in the treaty deemed detrimental to Philippine interest.  In January 1961, Commerce asked its readers to send in their comments on the treaty. Of the 153 replies the newspaper received, only 26 endorsed the treaty. Still, the majority of those who endorsed it urged amendments and adoption of safeguards to protect the Philippine economy from possible Japanese dominance.

Those who opposed the treaty gave the following objections: it was a serious setback, if not an outright negation of President Garcia’s “Filipino First Policy;” the Filipinos had very little to gain, and everything to lose from the treaty; the presence of Japanese in the Philippines would pose a threat to the country’s security; the treaty would be ruinous to the shipping industry of the Philippines; the treaty provided for reciprocity between two countries whose economies were not equal; the Philippines would be signing a treaty that had a “most-favored-nation” clause with a former enemy even before concluding it with an ally; the treaty did not define the territorial boundaries of the Philippines, thereby exposing the country to unlimited exploitation by the Japanese; and the treaty did not have limitations on fishing rights in Philippine waters.

The above arguments more or less echoed and summarized the arguments given in the halls of Congress and by mass media commentators.  Other reasons given for opposing the treaty were that the treaty was not necessary, for trade and commercial relations between the Philippines and Japan had been going on, anyway for many years; that an executive agreement would be a better alternative to a treaty; and that trade with Japan would preclude Philippine participation in a Pan-Malayan Common Market.

The minority who were not against the treaty gave the following rebuttal. Concluding a treaty that had a “most-favored-nation” clause with a former enemy even before concluding it with an ally was advantageous because the Philippines would not be inclined to accord the other party too much rights and privileges, which, under the most-favored-nation principle, would have to be granted later to all other nations with which treaties would be concluded. They also pointed out that most of the businessmen who came out against the treaty were protecting their own business interests. Lastly, they belied the claim that  with or without a treaty, Japan would buy Philippine raw materials, for it needed them anyway. They said that the Philippines had no monopoly of the raw materials that Japan needed—if the Philippines would not provide them, Japan would get them from other Asian countries.

Other arguments in favor of the treaty were, a democratic, friendly neighbor like the Philippines should trade with Japan, so that Japan would not be forced to trade with a communist country. Also, it was commented that the trade treaty would stabilize trade between Japan and the Philippines because Philippine producers would be guaranteed a definite market for their products and would therefore know in advance what products to produce.

In spite of the absence of a treaty of amity and commerce, trade between Japan and the Philippines continued to expand. The volume of trade between the two countries in 1963 was U.S.$ 325 million, approximately four times as large as in 1954 (Usami, 1964).[ii] The ratio of Philippine exports to Japan to the total Philippine exports doubled from 1954 to 1963 – from 12% to 24%. Meanwhile, the ratio of Philippine imports from Japan to the total Philippine imports more than tripled, from 6% to 20% during the same period.

Moreover, Japanese capital had also begun to enter the country as early as 1958, in spite of the lack of a clear policy on allowing Japanese investments in the country. The Department of Justice had opined that it was legal to enter into joint ventures with Japanese, because the Peace Treaty had been signed by the Philippines. But the Securities and Exchange Commission continued to turn down applications for license by Japanese firms.

On 19 April 1967 President Marcos reversed the adamant stand of previous administrations regarding the entry of Japanese capital into the country by directing the Securities and Exchange Commission “to give due course to all applications of Japanese nationals and corporations to engage in business in the Philippines.” By the following year, 16 Japanese firms were identified as doing business in the Philippines: Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Nichimen, Marubeni, Sumitomo, Nissho, Toyo Menka, Ataka, Kanematsu-gosho, Iwai, Chori, Itoh, Nippi Bôeki, Kowa, Nomura Trading, and Japan Air Lines. The capital of these corporations ranged from thirteen million to hundreds of millions of pesos.

The existence and operation of these Japanese firms were questioned by Senator Jovito Salonga, who accused the firms of operating on the basis of a faked permission allegedly issued by the National Economic Council. The exposé, in effect, was an attack on President Marcos, who ordered the opening of investment opportunities to the Japanese. The mayor of Manila ordered the closure of all the Japanese corporations, except the Japan Air Lines which did not engage in the export-import business.  The Salonga exposé mildly revived the anti-Japanese sentiment in the Philippines. The investigation of his exposé was eventually forgotten as bigger domestic problems, such as the Communist insurgency emerged and, in the excitement leading to the 1969 presidential election. That year,  Marcos became the first ever Filipino president to win a reelection bid.

On 2 March 1972, a resolution for the ratification of the Philippine-Japan Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation was rejected by the Philippine Senate. On 21 September 1972 Marcos declared Martial Law on grounds of Communist threat to Philippine security. Subsequently, the Philippine Congress was dissolved, and Marcos ruled through presidential decrees. In his capacity as chief executive and law-maker, he declared the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation between Japan and the Philippines as ratified. Instruments of ratification were exchanged between Secretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos P. Romulo and Japanese Ambassador Urabe Toshio on 27 December 1973, following the exchange of diplomatic notes on a Japanese loan to the Philippines amounting to about 17 million pesos. Secretary Romulo explained that the loan had nothing to do with the ratification of the Treaty of Amity.

Philippine-Taiwan air service agreement (ASA) row


Following a long-running aviation dispute, the Philippines gave on August 1999 an irregular single month’s notice and unilaterally abrogated the air service agreement signed earlier in 1996 with Taiwan.  The abrogation was to take effect on September 30, 1999.  The reason behind the abrogation? That Taiwanese carriers—China Airlines and Eva Air—are ‘poaching’  on the potential passengers of the Philippine Airlines.  Specifically, the Taiwanese carriers were accused to picking up United States-bound passengers in Manila since they were using larger passenger planes than what was agreed upon.  The Taiwanese planes originate from Taipei or another Taiwanese city carrying passengers bound for Manila and Los Angeles (for instance).  Passengers bound for Manila will disembark in Manila leaving seats for new passengers flying to Los Angeles.  Philippine aviation authorities complained that these passengers could have flown to Los Angeles via the Philippine Airlines.  They believe that the use of larger planes violates the ASA and constitutes unfair competition.  They forget that the strongest suit of the Taiwanese carriers is their competitive air fares (Lu, Liu, and Shen, nd).

Immediately after issuance of notice, President Joseph Estrada said he was hopeful that both parties will reach a “fruitful solution” in forging a new air service agreement. Estrada gave Taiwan two options: either renegotiate the terms of the 1996 air service agreement which remains valid until September 30, or forge a commercial contract with local carriers.  A commercial contract actually means that Taiwanese carriers strike an agreement with Philippine Airlines, the only local airline with international flights, to load and unload passengers bound for third destinations (Vanzi 1999).

The Taiwanese take on the issue is quite different; it was the Philippines who is guilty of offensive value-claiming behavior.  Talks to resolve the aviation dispute broke down and Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said this was due to the Philippines’ insistence that Taiwan carriers should share profits with Manila whenever Taiwanese airlines sell more than 4,000 seats a week.  They have a quota of 9,600 seats per week.  The Taiwan CAA said it will resume negotiation only if the Philippines lifts the suspension of Taiwanese carriers and agrees to maintain the weekly allocation of 9,600 seats.   Apart from China Airlines and EVA Air, affected by the Philippine unilateral ban were Far Eastern Air Transport and TransAsia Airways, which operate charters to Philippine destinations (Hannon 1999).

Ratifying JPEPA


Japan’s EPA policy took some time to take shape and intensify. In the 1990s, it stood by and

watched the regionalization of European, North American, and Southeast Asian economies. It saw

the increasing trend in bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs). Despite Prime Minister Hashimoto’s

1996 announcement of Big Bang reforms, a domestic policy deadlock in regard to the

internationalization and liberalization of the economy was still evident. This deadlock was manifested

by difficulties of achieving inter-ministry coordination and cooperation (Solis and Urata 2007).  Then at the beginning of the 2000s, Japan shifted gears. It launched an EPA train that at first rolled slowly then furiously sped towards the close of the decade.


The Philippines tried to board this train quickly but poor government preparations impeded this

attempt. The JPEPA was entered into force in November 2008. The agreement process took almost

seven years to complete since Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi first brought up the idea of a

comprehensive economic partnership with ASEAN member nations during his January 2002 tour of

Southeast Asia. Since signing the agreement in principle on November 29, 2004, the JPEPA took

roughly four more years for it to be ratified and be entered into force. The Philippine process was

longer than those of most of the original ASEAN members’ processes. It was also perhaps the most

publicly controversial. As Temario Rivera observed, “In contrast with Japan’s experience in

negotiating EPAs with other countries in Asia, the Philippine situation stands out as a thoroughly

contentious process” (Rivera, 2008).


On November 4, 2002, the ten ASEAN members signed an initial framework agreement with the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) with the intent of establishing a free trade area among the eleven nations in a decade’s time.  The ASEAN-China free trade area is the largest free trade are in terms of population and the third largest in terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) (Walker, 2010; Gooch, 2009).


Analysts have regarded China’s surprise foreign economic policy as the trigger to Japan’s EPA campaign with the ASEAN members (Akira, 2003; Terada, 2006).  In the 1990s, China was distrusted by many ASEAN members because of its hard approach toward unsettled territorial claims in the South China Sea. Likewise, it was viewed as ASEAN’s competitor in foreign investments and trade.


The initiation of the idea to have a bilateral economic partnership agreement (EPA) was made in May 2002 (Batalla, 2012).   Koizumi’s January 2002 proposal of a comprehensive economic partnership was received and supported by the ASEAN heads of state.   In May 2002, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo proposed the creation of a working group on both sides to discuss the possibility of an economic partnership agreement (EPA) (Batalla, 2009). The working group (WG) was subsequently created in October of that year after the proposal was brought down to the ministerial level (Batalla, 2009).  The WG met five times, four times in Manila and once in Tokyo (the fifth and last time on 8-9 July 2003).


In June 2003, Arroyo again met Koizumi in Tokyo. They agreed to include the participation of

the academic and private sectors in the study process.   In the Philippines, many studies were

conducted through the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS). A total of eighteen (18)

studies were commissioned by the PIDS under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Research

Project. The studies generally favored the JPEPA.


Likewise, a Joint Coordinating Team (JCT) for JPEPA was formed in 2003 to exchange views on

various issues and synthesize the findings from the time of the WG sessions[4]. Based on the JPEPA

Joint Coordination Team Report, the bilateral EPA would yield positive but minimal impact on the

growth of both countries’ gross domestic product (GDP).  Though the impact was minimal for both

countries, the report said that both countries still stood to gain from projected increases in trade

and investments.


In December 2003, Arroyo along with other ASEAN leaders again met Koizumi in Tokyo

during the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit. The two leaders agreed to start formal

negotiations for the JPEPA. The negotiations commenced in February 2004, with the Department of

Trade and Industry spearheading the Philippine side. On November 29, 2004, Koizumi and Arroyo

signed the JPEPA in principle. The “final” agreement was signed by the two leaders on September 9,

2006 in Helsinki, Finland. The rather long interval between these two dates—almost two years—

could be explained by the reactions coming from some business firms in the Philippines. This led to a

renegotiation of the initial JPEPA document.


The basic document which became the basis of the agreement in principle identified certain

areas which provided tariff reductions/eliminations as well as economic cooperation.   The agreement

on Trade in Goods called for the tariff abolition of all auto and auto parts by 2010. For some types,

tariffs would be immediately eliminated.   According to Higashi (2008), tariffs would be abolished

immediately on imported vehicles with engine displacements exceeding 3,000 cc.; tariffs for vehicles

with engine displacements below 3,000 cc would be abolished by 2010.


Higashi (2003) narrated how carmaker Ford lobbied against this JPEPA provision. Obviously, the

provision would put Ford at a gross disadvantage against Japanese automotive firms, who would

begin enjoying tariff-free imports as against Ford’s 10% tariff on imported large vehicles.   Citing

existing government regulations governing the Philippines’ motor vehicle development program, it

advocated for a stay in the current import tariff system. Ford also informed the Philippine

government of Thailand’s success at negotiating the continued protection of its more vibrant

domestic automotive industry. The subsequent renegotiation decided on the maintenance of the

30% tariff until 2009 on vehicles with engine displacements of 3,000 cc. and above; tariffs would be

abolished in 2010 if no additional investments were made. Likewise, the tariff on cars below 3,000 cc

engine displacements would be reduced gradually to 20% by 2009 subject to renegotiation

afterward (Higashi, 2003).


The renegotiation caused the first round of delay in the signing of the final agreement.

Eventually, the two parties produced a 120-page treaty with 16 chapters.   Eight (8) annexes were

included in the agreement, making the JPEPA a voluminous document. All in all, the JPEPA reached

934 pages.


After the Helsinki signing, the JPEPA was ratified by the Japanese Diet in December 2006.  In

contrast, the Philippine executive branch failed to transmit the JPEPA immediately for Senate

ratification.   It appeared that the executive branch had erred in assuming that the JPEPA needed no

ratification by the Senate. Senator Mar Roxas, who had led the Philippines during the Doha Round of

the WTO negotiations, explained that FTAs which fell under GATT rules were classified as

executive agreements and hence did not require Senate concurrence. However, Senate concurrence

was required for JPEPA since it was claimed that the EPA contained “WTO-plus, or provisions

exceeding those of approved or pending matters” in the WTO.   Apparently, the JPEPA included

the so-called Singapore issues (e.g., transparency in government procurement and customs issues),

which the WTO was not yet able to settle.


On November 7, 2006, members of the Senate expressed their relief over President Arroyo’s

announcement before the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) that the

JPEPA would be referred to the Senate.  The JPEPA was finally transmitted to the Senate in a letter

signed by Arroyo dated November 16, 2006. Five days later, the Senate referred the agreement to

its committee on foreign relations headed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. However, time had

run out on the ratification process as the 13th Congress neared its end. The ratification process

involved public hearings, the filing of a committee report, a Senate Resolution, and the approval of

this resolution by the Senate. The filing of a committee report should be approved by a simple

majority in the Senate. Thereafter, a resolution could be submitted and debated. A senate resolution

required two-thirds vote of the Senate in plenary.



During and after the JPEPA negotiations, strong resentments were publicly expressed regarding

the lack of transparency and public consultations. Even members of the House of Representatives

were disturbed by the “secrecy” of the talks. Members of the Lower House learned of the treaty

during deliberations on the 2006 DTI budget by the House committee on appropriations led by

Representative Rolando Andaya. According to trade department officials headed by Secretary Peter

Favila and Senior Undersecretary Thomas Aquino, the House Special Committee on Globalization

and WTO had already requested the documents. However, the issuance of Executive Order 464

prevented the DTI from sharing any documents without prior approval of the President.   Further,

the JPEPA documents could not be disclosed in view of ongoing negotiations.  Executive Order 464

invoked the use of executive privilege in the exercise of separation of powers in government. Thus,

in December 2005, a group led by the Akbayan Citizens Action Party (AKBAYAN) and other

members of the House of Representatives filed an urgent petition before the Supreme Court to

compel the government to publicly disclose the full text of the JPEPA and all pertinent attachments.

It took some time for the High Court to reach a decision.



Even after the September 2006 Helsinki agreement, the complete details of the JPEPA stayed

with the executive department and were kept from the public eye. This did not prevent a public

storm from gathering however.   Advocacy groups led by Greenpeace and Fair Trade Alliance had

been adamant on the issue of toxic wastes dumping.   In October 2006, they found a champion in

Senator Pia Cayetano who was chair of the Senate environment and natural resources committee.


Cayetano publicly expressed grave concern over the possibility of the Philippines being a

dumping ground of hazardous and toxic wastes from Japan as a result of the tariff abolition on

wastes. She pointed out that this potentially violated the relevant Philippine laws on wastes and even

threatened the people’s health.  The issue of toxic wastes firmly conditioned the public mind about

the demerits of the JPEPA. It was so devastating that it became the subject of the first exchange of

diplomatic notes (May 23, 2007) on JPEPA between the foreign ministers of the Philippines and



Another issue that surfaced even before the JPEPA’s transmission to the Senate involved the

stringent requirements for the entry of Filipino nurses into Japan. The movement of Filipino labor,

particularly of nurses, was one of the JPEPA’s supposed attractions. Earlier, environmentalists

considered the JPEPA as an exchange of Filipino nurses for Japanese toxic wastes. The issue of

stringent entry requirements raised the level of difficulty for the ratification process.


The third issue surrounding the JPEPA in late 2006 was its impact on domestic industries and

workers.   At that time, Senator Roxas expressed the view that the impact had yet to be ascertained.

The fourth issue concerned the treaty’s violations of the Philippine constitution and statutory laws.

Particularly, there were potential violations, namely: 1) the granting of parity rights (national

treatment), 2) the granting of most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment, and 3) prohibition of

performance requirements to Japanese investors. These issues were particularly sensitive to critics

because of their implications on the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, the Philippines’

relationships with other countries, and to the nature of laws that government could make in the

future. In sum, JPEPA critics not only rejected bloated claims of economic gains for the Philippines;

they also raised serious constitutional/statutory, environmental, and overseas employment issues

(particularly on nurses and caregivers).


In the backdrop of the government’s failure to disclose ample information after the Helsinki

agreement, the mass media made the public increasingly aware of these issues. This situation

produced a powerfully negative impression of the JPEPA to the public. JPEPA’s public image as an

instrument of mutual benefit never fully recovered because of this. The public’s negative opinion

dragged the ratification process and lingered even after Senate approval.


Certainly, the Arroyo Philippine government wanted a speedy ratification. However, by the

time the JPEPA was referred to the Senate in November 2006, preparations for the May 2007

elections were already underway. For some members of the Senate, to ratify the controversial

agreement would be to risk being reelected. More urgent for the senators was the completion of

budget deliberations by the first week of December. The JPEPA debates were likewise scheduled to

commence on December 7.


A final attempt was made by the administration to speed up the process. Administration ally,

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, wrote a letter to Senate President Manuel Villar dated November 27,

2006 that served as a motion for him to convene the Senate as a committee of the whole and to

discuss the JPEPA’s ratification.  In this letter, she cited as precedence the 9th Congress where the

Senate was convened as a committee of the whole to tackle the GATT/WTO agreement.   During

that time, the chair of the committee on foreign relations and the chair of the committee on trade

and commerce acted as co-chairs.   The letter was addressed to the Senate president because under

Senate Rule 10, Section 14, the Senate president had the authority to convene a special committee

such as the one that Santiago was proposing.  Villar however was not keen on the proposal. He felt

that in the face of ongoing deliberations on the government budget, he also needed to consult with

the other senators, particularly Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, regarding the scheduling of

matters for deliberation at the floor.


Villar’s attitude toward the Santiago proposal revealed a view from the Senate that concurrence

on the JPEPA involved a more difficult process. This was confirmed on December 5 when Senator

Pangilinan announced that debates on the JPEPA would be postponed. The postponement was made

in view of bicameral conference debates on the budget scheduled on December 7, which was

previously the set date for the JPEPA.   Pangilinan told the press that Senate President Villar wanted

the ratification process to begin in the following year.


On January 24, 2007 Senator Santiago announced that the Senate decided to shelve ratification

discussions on the JPEPA. With nine session days left before adjournment, Santiago said that there

was no more time for JPEPA to be ratified. Thus, the JPEPA became an unfinished legislative

business of the 13th Congress.   Senator Miriam Santiago later explained that under the rules of the

Senate, all unfinished legislative business at the end of a certain Congress would have to be re-

started in the new Congress. In other words, the executive branch should again transmit the JPEPA

to the Senate for ratification.


After the 14th Congress came in session, the JPEPA was transmitted again by Arroyo for Senate

ratification on August 17, 2007. Public hearings commenced in September and ended in December.

A total of nine committee hearings were held from September to December.   The most vocal

groups who were in favor and against the JPEPA as well as resource persons were heard. The

hearings ended with a host of unsettled issues, most importantly constitutional ones.


After the hearings, a committee report on the JPEPA was subsequently prepared jointly by the

committee on foreign relations, headed by Senator Santiago, and the committee on trade and

commerce, chaired by Senator Roxas. Roxas was optimistic that the report would be released after

the Senate reopened its session on January 28, 2008.   As usual, the Philippine executive branch

wanted immediate Senate ratification, by April 2008 at the latest. This move was supported by

influential business associations such as the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (led by

Donald Dee) and the Makati Business Club. However, many senators were now prevented from

immediately concurring.


Many senators faced a certain dilemma that stemmed from their realization that the contested

issues would not lead to a treaty renegotiation. That the JPEPA was already approved by the

Japanese Diet dimmed the possibility of renegotiation. So the Senate was left with the choice of

either approving or rejecting the treaty.


During the 2007 Senate hearings, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano

pointed to constitutional and statutory problems posed by the JPEPA, particularly Article 89 (on

national treatment), Article 90 (on MFN treatment), Article 93 (on prohibition of performance

requirements), and   Article 18 (removal of customs duties which is a power of Congress and not the

President’s).   According to Justice Feliciano, these problems arose due to the Philippine negotiators’

“failure to make appropriate and complete reservations in our Schedule to Part 1 (with respect to

existing nonconforming constitutional and statutory and administrative provisions) and our Schedule

to Part 2 (with respect to future non-conforming measures) of Annex 7.”  He mentioned that the

Japanese side itself had made a long list of reservations.


To save the treaty from being inconsistent with Philippine constitutional provisions and

statutory laws, he recommended amendments and insertions to the treaty’s Annex 7 (particularly

the Philippine Schedule to Parts 1 and 2 of said annex).   Feliciano believed that securing the consent

from the Japanese government would not be difficult for reasons, to quote:   “(a) that we would be

asking only for what Japan has secured for itself in Japan’s Schedules to Part 1 and Part 2 of Annex 7;

and (b) that we would be asking only for what Japan has already conceded to Thailand, Malaysia and

Indonesia in their respective EPAs with Japan.” He added, “Incidentally, the Schedules of

comprehensive reservations for future non-conforming measures that Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and

Indonesia adopted, should provide models that our negotiators may usefully examine carefully.”

Feliciano argued that the Senate could condition its approval of the JPEPA on these amendments.


The Feliciano solution was taken up by former Supreme Court Justice Artemio Panganiban in

two successive articles released in his column, With Due Respect, at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.   On

the premise that the JPEPA could no longer be renegotiated because of the Diet ratification,

Panganiban recommended conditional or qualified concurrence. Accordingly, the Senate could ratify

the treaty with “the understanding and interpretation that the Constitution is superior to any

provision of the JPEPA and that the Philippines is not barred from applying current, or enacting

future, legislations that implement our fundamental law.”


Panganiban later explained that the proposal for qualified concurrence had domestic and

international validity. He cited the practice of the United States Senate, which also issued

reservations in its concurrences. Further, he believed that, once accepted by both governments, a

Senate reservation of the primacy of the Philippine Constitution over JPEPA would not be a problem

in the international courts. Panganiban further recommended “an exchange of letters between both

governments acknowledging the validity and binding effect of the Senate qualifications.”


Conditional concurrence was therefore a way out of the Senate dilemma of approving or

rejecting the JPEPA. For many senators including Senator Santiago, JPEPA was no longer a matter of

simple concurrence. On the basis of both her own expertise as well as those who have expressed

their expert opinions during the 2007 hearings, she was convinced that the Supreme Court would

declare the JPEPA as unconstitutional. Thus, prior to the resumption of the Senate session in January

2008, Santiago expressed her intention to submit to the Senate a resolution of conditional



Conditional concurrence involved an exchange of notes between Japan and the Philippines.

Santiago mentioned that the Japanese ambassador had accepted the concept in principle. The

exchange of notes would clarify Japan’s position toward the issues raised by concerned groups in the

Philippines. Later in August, she would point out that conditional concurrence is allowed by the

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. A total of 15 statutory and constitutional provisions had

to be clarified.


The proposed process was welcomed by JPEPA proponents in the Philippines and many of

those who were concerned with constitutional and statutory inconsistencies. The exchange of notes,

which would serve as a supplemental agreement, would give the assurance needed by the Senate

that the national interest was adequately protected. It would thus resolve the contested issues.


In January, Santiago had hoped that, through this process, the JPEPA ratification would be

completed before the Senate session adjourned on March 29, 2008 for the Holy Week break.

Unfortunately, since the Senate session’s resumption in January, no exchange of notes transpired. It

appeared that it was difficult for the Philippine government to convince Tokyo about conditional

concurrence.   Moreover, a series of events doused any sense of urgency for the treaty in the

Philippine legislature’s Upper House. The Senate dealt with the extended budget deliberations in

January and later, the ZTE-National Broadband Network (NBN) scandal as well as the food and

energy crises. Senate adjourned its session in March with no resolution on the treaty.


In mid-April 2008 President Arroyo urged the Senate to ratify JPEPA. On April 21, Santiago

filed the joint committee report and looked forward to making her resolution sponsorship speech

on April 28. The committee report recommended conditional concurrence in view of the

constitutional and other issues. Earlier, Santiago also worried to secure the majority vote of the two

committees (on foreign relations and on trade and commerce) as well as the votes of 16 Senators

during plenary session.  Then in an unexpected twist, the government sued for time.


Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo requested that Santiago postpone sponsorship of the

resolution to ratify the JPEPA to rectify constitutional infirmities.   Apparently, negotiations were being undertaken between Tokyo and Manila on a supplemental agreement based on the exchange of notes. The Senate resolution had to wait for this agreement to be reached before it could be filed. It was likely that either or both governments did not want the Senate’s conditional concurrence, which potentially meant more problems before and during JPEPA’s implementation.   No supplemental agreement was made before Congress adjourned its first regular session in June.


On July 28, 2008 Congress opened its second regular session. On August 5, Arroyo re-

submitted the JPEPA for Senate ratification. On the same day, the joint committee report on the

JPEPA, now recommending concurrence, was filed at the Senate. Of the thirteen senators who

signed the committee report, only Senators Edgardo Angara and Juan Ponce Enrile gave their

approval without reservations.


The joint committee report recommendation, which was adopted by Senate Resolution No.

555, changed from conditional concurrence to simple concurrence in view of the fact that the

supplemental agreement was already being finalized. 58 The exchange of notes between Foreign

Secretary Romulo and Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumoura dated 22 August 2008 was later

transmitted to the Senate. Through such assurances, and after nine sessions, the JPEPA was finally

approved by 16 of the 23 senators on October 10, 2008.  Four senators voted to disapprove,

namely: Senators Jamby Madrigal, Benigno Aquino III, Francis Escudero, and Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Those not present and did not vote were Pia Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes, and Joker Arroyo.


What were the Philippines’ reasons to support an EPA with Japan where economic benefits

were projected to be minimal?   As Japan had feared of being isolated and overtaken, the Philippines

also feared of being left out and behind by her ASEAN neighbors. Japan played a diplomatic gambit of

forging EPAs with the ASEAN, as individual countries and as a region. On October 8, 2003, Japan

signed with the ASEAN the Framework for the Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership

Agreement (JACEPA) in Bali, Indonesia. Negotiations were concluded in November 2007 and the

agreement entered into force in December 2008.


Roxas, who as former trade secretary was active in the early JPEPA negotiations, expressed the

fear of the Philippines being left behind if the agreement was not ratified. Without the bilateral

agreement, the country’s position in the JACEPA would be uncertain. While acknowledging the

treaty’s minimal gains, Roxas believed that the Senate’s rejection of the JPEPA would lead to a loss

that was “definite” and “calculable.” He explained that other countries with trade deals with Japan

would have an advantage over the Philippines if the JPEPA was not ratified.   Roxas saw JPEPA as a

lose-draw (“tabla-talo”) situation for the Philippines.


After JPEPA’s approval by the Senate in October 2008, Roxas remarked, “We are witnessing a

financial tsunami going around the financial centers around the world. It is timely that we acted on

JPEPA at this time. It is necessary for us to keep our competitiveness with our ASEAN neighbors,

who have their respective economic agreements with Japan.”  Indeed, at the time of the JPEPA’s

ratification by the Philippine, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia were already on board

Japan’s ASEAN EPA train, with Vietnam and Brunei following suit.





Ideally, international economic negotiations should be insulated from domestic politics.  However, it is clear that domestic politics was the strongest variable that affected the economic negotiation episodes under consideration.  It is proof positive that diplomacy is a ‘two-level’ game. (Putnam, 1988).   He notes that domestic politics and international relations are often inextricably entangled, but existing theories (particularly “state-centric” theories) do not adequately account for these linkages. When national leaders must win ratification (formal or informal) from their constituents for an international agreement, their negotiating behavior reflects the simultaneous imperatives of both a domestic political game and an international game.  Putnam (1988) addressed the role of domestic preferences and coalitions, domestic political institutions and practices, the strategies and tactics of negotiators, uncertainty, the domestic reverberation of international pressures, and the interests of the chief negotiator.


The multi-lateral negotiation of the GATT-Uruguay round treaty was relatively problem-free for the Philippines even if forging an agreement took time.  The ratification of the treaty by the Philippine Senate was relatively snag-free.  For one, most senators believed at the outset that the treaty will bring benefits to the Philippine economy.  In this sense, there was almost a strong consensus on the issue.  A coalition was being formed between the ruling Lakas party and the main opposition party, Laban, for the coming 1995 elections.  Since the treaty was unprecedented, the senators did not have market information to bely their optimism.  In the same manner, warnings from non-governmental groups and civil society organizations (CSOs) regarding the treaty’s dire consequences lack material foundation.  It also helped that Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who championed the treaty, was the lone professional economist in the Senate.


However, the most important political factor was President Fidel V. Ramos, who believed that the treaty’s ratification was a major step to ‘lock in’ market reforms in the Philippines.  Ramos feared backsliding from free markets to protectionist policy after his term ended.  Signing international commitments like the GATT-Uruguay round treaty will estopped future administrations against protectionism.


The inordinate power and influence of the Philippine president is a key feature of the Philippine political system.  The adverse effects of such power and influence were displayed when President Joseph Estrada’s civil aviation officials unilaterally abrogated an existing air service agreement with Taiwan in 1999.  While Estrada strongly denied that the abrogation was done to protect Philippine Airlines owned by his friend, Lucio Tan, it was clearly the case since no other Philippine carrier had flights to Taiwan.  Meant to ‘teach Taiwan a lesson’, the Philippines’ aggressive behavior backfired.


This time, market conditions were the key variable and militated against Filipino aggressiveness.  There were substantial Taiwanese investments in the country.  Many Taiwanese tourists visited the Philippines and Taiwan was a major destination for our overseas workers.  In response to the abrogation, major investments, such as Acer, pulled out of the country and tourist arrivals decreased.  Taiwan also threatened to reduce worker intake.  Filipino workers in Taiwan who wanted to come home had to spend more in air fares since they needed to go either to Hongkong or Bangkok to fly to Manila.  Everybody except Lucio Tan was unhappy with the abrogation.  The Philippines soon ate ‘humble pie’ and agreed to an agreement very similar to the one it abrogated. This episode illustrates the pitfalls of making threats that cannot be supported wholeheartedly by supposed beneficiaries.  It raised the key question: is the national interest the interest of the national carrier?  What if the national carrier is privately owned?


The picture is more complicated with respect to the Japan Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).  By the time JPEPA was negotiated, the ‘locking in’ desired by President Ramos was almost complete.  Even if the Uruguay round process was stalled on a number of issues, the executive branch is more or less committed to finishing market reforms and signing free trade agreements, even if only on a bilateral basis.  In the legislature, there were a minority who opposed JPEPA alongside CSOs and NGOs.  Business groups on the whole supported it except for car manufacturers who feared the agreement will allow the import of used motor vehicles.

On the side, Japan was eager to make up for lost time and ground and was on a EPA negotiating spree with ASEAN member-nations such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.  Their respective EPAs did not require ratification in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.  The JPEPA was initially considered by the executive branch as an executive agreement that did not require Senate ratification.  However, it was subsequently clarified it was a treaty that needed ratification.

Ratification of the JPEPA took time.  Opposition was strong and resonated within the Senate especially when constitutional issues were raised.  The issuance of diplomatic notes by Japan to remedy the legal issues is equivalent to re-negotiation.  The political strength of President Arroyo was sapped since 2005 by questions regarding her electoral mandate and her family’s involvement in corruption scandals.  The Senate was also distracted by investigations and preparations for the 2007 elections.  The possible erosion of the Philippines’ competitive advantage vis-à-vis its ASEAN neighbors with regard the Japanese market and the onset of the 2008 US recession forced the ratification in November 2008.  In a sense, while domestic politics delayed JPEPA’s ratification, international market conditions sped up its approval.

What institutional reforms can be adopted to prevent repeats of the unfortunate episodes discussed in this chapter?  What can be done to improve our country’s economic diplomacy?  We have alluded earlier to the inordinate power and influence of the Philippine president.  She is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.  Nevertheless, the Senate plays a key role in diplomacy by ratifying treaties.  Regarding treaties, their ratification rather than their mere signing by both parties is the obvious success indicator.  However, since the senators do not have any role in negotiating a treaty, its ratification is not a foregone conclusion.  In fact, one can say there was too much slack between the negotiators and the senators that ratification was endangered.

What can be done to increase the chances of a treaty’s ratification?  How can inputs from senators be considered while observing secrecy requirements so the Japanese side will not be forewarned regarding our negotiating positions and strategies?  Can the existing Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), established during President Ramos’ time, serve this purpose?

In June 2012, the House of Representatives, in plenary session, has approved on third reading a bill seeking to create the Philippine Trade Representative Office that shall lead, direct, formulate and coordinate government agencies toward formulating coherent and cohesive policies, positions and measures and conduct regular stakeholders’ consultations with respect to international trade and investment relations and negotiations.  House Bill 5977, or the Charter of the Philippine Trade Representative Office, will beef up the country’s negotiating capacity by building up databases, trade intelligence work, having solid research analysts and a legal team.

Liberal Party Rep. Henry Pryde Teves of Negros Oriental, one of the authors of the bill, said the proposed trade office will put in place mandatory consultative mechanisms for greater participation of the private sector, as well as civil-society organizations in trade negotiations.  “Over the years, the Philippines has entered into 37 bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements, 38 bilateral agreements and other multilateral and regional trade agreements, while other agreements are still in the process of negotiations.  With the potential increase in the number of trade negotiations, it is imperative that the Philippines is equipped with the necessary resources and capability to engage in all trade discussions,” Teves said (Marasigan, 2012).

The trade office will provide closer coordination between the Philippine Trade Representative, the various departments involved and Congress which will be involved in formulating a negotiating mandate before any negotiations take place.  As embodied in the bill, the Trade Office shall be headed by the Philippine Trade Representative who shall be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

The bill provides that the trade office shall negotiate trade and investment agreements on the basis of the Philippine Constitution and other laws, and will represent the country in all international trade negotiations.  Under the bill, the Tariff and Related Matters Committee, together with the Technical Committee on World Trade Organization Matters, shall continue to function for six months until the Office of the Philippine Trade Representative is set up whichever comes earlier, after which they shall cease to function.

Notwithstanding this bill, it remains to be seen if institutional changes are proposed to remedy percieved infirmities.  Is diplomacy entirely the province of the executive branch?  Save for Senate ratification, should there be further limits to the power of the President to act as the country’s chief diplomat?













News articles:

Ager, Maila. 2008a. Santiago: JPEPA ratification certain with exchange of notes., September 2, 2008.

Ager, Maila. 2008b. Senate ratifies JPEPA., October 9, 2008.

Calica, Aurea. 2007. Senate sets into motion JPEPA ratification process. The Philippine Star, August 10, 2007.

China Post staff & Reuters. 2000. Manila hopes to sign new air accord with Taiwan. The China Post, September 23, 2000.

Diaz, Jess. 2000.  Taiwan ready to talk with RP on new air ties. The Philippine Star, March 23, 2000.

Hannon, Brent. 1999. Philippines ends Taiwan link as dispute escalates. Flight, August 11, 1999.

Hermosa, Jessica with A. Romero. 2008. Mixed reactions greet Senate approval of Jpepa. GMANews.TV, October 10, 2008.

GMANews.TV. 2007. Senate shelves JPEPA ratiification. GMANews.TV, January 24, 2007.

Gonzales, Iris. 2007. JPEPA ratification may boost ODA inflow. The Philippine Star. August 19, 2007.

Jumilla, Lynda. 2008. Some senators doubt Miriam’s formula for JPEPA ratification. ABS-CBN, April 23, 2008.

Lu, Cherie, Szu-Yin Liu, and Shue-Ting Shen. nd. The Low Cost Model and Strategies for Taiwanese Airlines. Aerlines Magazine e-zine edition, Issue 34.

Luib, Romulo. 2000. Taiwan air pact collapse threatens export industries. Business World, May 4, 2000.

Malaya. 2008. Arroyo appeals to Senate to ratify JPEPA. Malaya, April 14, 2008.

Marasigan, Fernan. 2012. House OKs bill on creation of trade representative office. Business Mirror, June 4, 2012  (

Morelos, Carmelo. 1994. Open Letter to the Senate for Deferment of GATT Approval,

Kyodo. 1999a. Philippines to scrap air accord with Taiwan. Asian Economic News, August 9, 1999.

Kyodo. 1999b. Philippines-Taiwan air talks hit snag. Asian Economic News, September 20, 1999.

Kyodo. 1999c. Philippine Airlines to resume flights to Taiwan. Asian Economic News, October 9, 2000.

PCIJ. 2008. SC not likely to reconsider ruling on secrecy of JPEPA negotiations. The PCIJ Blog, September 13, 2008.

PDI. 2008. Roxas pushing for JPEPA ratification. Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 16, 2008.

PNA. 2000. Taiwan snubs air pact talks with RP. The Philippine Star, March 1, 2000.

Regalado, Edith. 2000. Estrada upbeat on RP-Taiwan air ties.” The Philippine Star, March 2, 2000.

Rufo, Aries. 2008. DFA asks Senate to defer vote on JPEPA.”, April 25, 2008.

Senate Economic Planning Office. 2007. Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA): An Assessment. Policy Brief, September 2007.

Uy, Veronica. 2008. Roxas sees likely JPEPA ratification., January 15, 2008.

Vanzi, Sol. 1999. Erap bullish on fruitful solution to RP-Taiwan air row. Philippine Headline News Online, August 10, 1999.

Books, papers and journal articles:

Batalla, Eric. 2012. Veto players and state decisiveness: negotiating bilateral economkic partnership agreements between Japan and Southeast Asia. Philippine Political Science Journal 33(1), 39-62.

Batalla, Eric. 2009. Japan’s EPA campaign and the Philippines, (ms).

Cohn, T. (2008). Global Political Economy: Theory and Practice. New York: Longman.

Cronin, P. (2003). The Doha Round: Prospects for the Rules-Based Trading System. In C.R. Goddard, P. Cronin, & K. Dash (2003) eds. International Political Economy: State-Market Relations in a Changing Global Order. Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 369-390.

Fair Trade Alliance. 2007. JPEPA: Para Saan, Para Kanino? Quezon City: Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement.

Gilpin, R. (2001). Global Political Economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Landau, A. (2000). ‘Analyzing International Economic Negotiations: Towards a Synthesis of Approaches.’ International Negotiation 5: 1-19.

Melissen, J. (1999) ed. Innovation in Diplomatic Practice. London: Macmillan.

Odell, John. 2000. Negotiating the World Economy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Putnam, Robert. 1988. Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games.  International Organization 42(3), 427-460.

Rocamora, Joel. 1996. Can the Philippines Compete? In The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade: Philippine Issues and Perspectives. Ed. Judith Reyes. Quezon City: Philippine Pesant Institute.

Saner, R. and L. Yiu (n.d.). ‘International Economic Diplomacy: Mutations in Post-modern Times’.  Discussion Papers in Diplomacy, Netherlands Institute of International Relations.

Schneider, C.J. (2008). ‘Weak States and Institutionalized Bargaining Power in International Organizations.’ (ms)

Scholte, J.A. (2000). ‘Globalisation, Governance and Corporate Citizenship.’ The Journal of Corporate Citizenship 1(1), 15-45.

Singh, J.P. (2006). Coalitions, Developing Countries, and International Trade: Research Findings and Prospects. International Negotiation 11:499-514.

[1] G.R. Berridge & A. James (2001). A Dictionary of Diplomacy. Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave Publishers, p. 81 (in Saner & Yiu).

[2] EO 213, Sec. 1 states: [T]he DFA Undersecretary for International Economic Relations and the DTI Undersecretary for International Trade shall act as co-chairs of the Philippine Coordinating Committee (PCC).  The DTI Undersecretary shall convene and conduct the meetings of the PCC.  In his/her absence, The DFA Undersecretary may also convene and conduct the meetings of the PCC.

[3] Waltz (1979) developed his systemic realism by borrowing analogues from neoclassical economic theory.  In his sense, strong states are akin to monopolistic or oligopolistic firms (price setters) while weak states are likened to more numerous consumers (price takers).

[4] Executive Order No. 312 mandated the creation of a Philippine Coordinating Committee to study and negotiate the JPEPA.  The lead agency was the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Introduction to IPE (short version)

Overview of IPE II





Two great powers with authoritarian or semi-authoritarian political systems should really attend seminars of Dale Carnegie on how to win friends and influence people. Or on how not to help your ‘frenemies’.

I am referring to China and Russia. Due to their heavy-handedness and hard-ball approaches, they manage to augment the ranks of their adversary’s (the US) allies and friends.

China single-handedly pushed the Philippines further into the Americans’ embrace due to its aggressive activism in the South China Sea. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of 2014 is the latest (most likely not the last) agreement strengthening US-Philippine strategic ties. Furthermore, Chinese territorial aggressiveness in Northeast Asia is further driving South Korea and Japan into the ‘tacit’ US-led anti-Chinese front. Japan in fact offered a strategic alliance with the Philippines (obviously versus China) last year after ‘gifting’ the Philippine navy with some nifty and spankingly-new fast craft (an obvious improvement over the decades-old US hand-me-downs). Vietnam and the Philippines cozied up to each other again due to Chinese heavy-handedness.




Sealing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)

Sealing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)



Elsewhere, Ukraine responded to Russia territorial incursions by firmly siding with the West. Admittedly, Russia was simply a reactor to West-sponsored ouster of a pro-Russian government in Kiyev. However, hardball tactics versus a pro-West successor goverment will only alienate the latter. What it feared–an anti-Russia and pro-West Ukraine–actually came to pass.

Should Ukraine aspire for and gain admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after clinching EU membership, the Russian nightmare of a hostile ‘near abroad’ will materialize. That Western sanctions over the Ukraine question are helping push the Russian economy to a crisis is ‘salt on an open wound’.

Strategically, China and Russia will most likely get drawn together. Partnerships within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and with the rest of the BRIC (i.e., India and Brazil) and Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American governments with a left-leaning social policy and an anti-US foreign policy orientation will be strengthened or cultivated. Chinese carrots will continue to be available for pariah African states (over such issues as Darfur).

In Asia, China appears to have finessed with its tack with its billion-dollar funded Asian infrastructure bank and the proposed new Silk Road. However, these new carrots are on offer while consolidation (hardening and construction of new and improved infrastructure) proceeds apace in its newly-‘acquired’ SCS territories.

Meanwhile, the US is smelling like a bed of roses. Notwithstanding the partisan blindness of the Republicans and die-hard Tea Party zealots, the US economy is slowly recovering and all other economic indicators are doing quite well. Of course,the 1%-99% divide remains a serious socio-political thorn.



(Photo from

(Photo from




On the global front the US earned a lot of brownie points with the on-going normalization of ties with Cuba. Kudos to Pope Francis for brokering the bilateral preps. On the other hand, the Americans cannot seem to realize their government’s continued support for isolated Israel’s does not help their war effort against international terror.

I will continue to monitor these global developments and post my observations in this page and elsewhere.

Wreckage of MH17

Wreckage of MH17



While the US and Western mainstream media are so het up over the downing of MH 17 by Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists, they are oh so silent about the repeat of Israeli mass murder in the Gaza strip.



Isareli war on Gaza: Surgical strike?

Isareli war on Gaza: Surgical strike?


Citing Hamas rocket attacks into Israel, they justify Israeli’s actions, gloss over the fact that most of the fatalities are Palestinian non-combatants (including many children), and hype over the few dead among the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).


They conflate the violence of colonizers, occupiers, invaders with the resistance of the occupied, the colonized, and the invaded.


They wish away the grave asymmetry of strength between the Israeli state and its Western backers on one hand and the non-state Hamas, on the other.


St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas


In the middle ages, St. Thomas Aquinas differentiated between just wars (the wars waged by those invaded and occupied) and unjust wars ( the wars waged by those who invade and covet land and riches). Aquinas’ dichotomy applies even today.


While the downing of MH 17 and the loss of lives over the Donetsk region of Ukraine deserve our condemnation, it must not be used to cover up and deflect our attention from a more serious and continuing crime in Gaza. 


Furthermore, pressure has worked. The bodies and personal effects of the dead plus the two black boxes of the downed plane are being turned over by the Ukrainian separatists.


In contrast, Western governments and mainstream media have not exerted any pressure on the Israeli government. Instead, they support and accept the justifications of the latter.


If during times of “peace,” Gaza is an open air concentration camp, it is now a murdering zone.


Israeli civilians watching bombings of Gaza

Israeli civilians watching bombings of Gaza


It is also a sorry, sordid spectacle with many Israelis watching and cheering from nearby hills and promontories as bombs and mayhem attend to buildings and Palestinian houses.


These atrocities, these tragedies must stop.