PHL, Japan to sign investment deals on AI, data analytics

The Philippines is eyeing to ink two investment agreements with Japan in high-tech industries during President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to Tokyo next week.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, in a presser on May 16, said his agency has received “a lot” of letters of intent from Japanese companies to invest and expand their businesses in the Philippines, with two deals ready for signing.

“We have two in the list already. They are more in the high-tech, AI (artificial intelligence) sector, data analytics, we’re seeing that. And of course, others are in manufacturing, as well,” Lopez said.

During his guesting at “The Virtual Presser”, Lopez discussed the latest developments on the trade and investment agreements previously signed during Duterte’s participation in the Belt and Road Forum in April, as well as the Philippine delegation’s agenda in the upcoming visit to Japan for the Future of Asia forum, organized by Nikkei, on May 30-31.

Lopez said the government is seeking for a high-level bilateral meeting between Duterte and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the forum.

“Typically, on a normal visit, there is always that attempt to have that bilateral meeting. I mean they’re good friends. We’ve seen that even in the visit of Prime Minister Abe in the home of our president in Davao. And we expect continuing discussions on many things and that includes a lot of cooperation not only in the economic trade and investment, but also security cooperation, anti-terrorism, and all that. These are things that both leaders would update each other on and reconfirm their commitment,” he said.

“Apart from the overall, the macroeconomic reforms, certainly the President will push for greater bilateral trading, investment relationship with Japan. If he is addressing Japanese investors, certainly we expect more Japanese trade deals, and Japan has been a big investor in the Philippines. We’d like to invite more of them,” he added.

Moreover, Lopez said the government may also review the Japan – Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) comprehensive bilateral trade and investment deal.

“At any rate, this JPEPA is really bound for a review. And that, when this was initiated, the initial objective of the country — this has been raised by President Duterte to Prime Minister Abe — is somehow for Japan to allow greater access for some agriculture products, like banana, and lowering tariff rates for banana to our exports to Japan. So that’s a commodity, plus other agriculture products,” Lopez said.

“That’s a primary concern. This has been raised, and it was agreed that these negotiations can be adjusted in the review of the JPEPA. We can expect hopefully an improvement of market access to Philippine products going to Japan,” he added. PNA