PRIVATE sectors involved in international trade should be allowed participation in the tariff rate negotiation for imported items to Japan and Korea, said Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) official.

On the sidelines of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Davao Region Stakeholders’ Consultation on Tuesday, February 20 at Seda Abreeza Hotel, PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig said negotiation for tariff rates of Philippine imported products to Japan and Korea will commence by March or April.

Antig said this will expectedly be attended by secretaries of the agriculture and trade and industry departments as well as their undersecretaries involved in the international trade. Although the private sectors are allowed to witness and be observers of the said meeting, Antig said they wish they would be allowed to participate and join in voicing out their concerns.

“We can be an observer but this time we do not want to be just an observer. We really want to participate because we’re the ones who are really knowledgeable of this industry. The impact and the effect of this is more to us. If you ask government officials to talk for you, chances are there will be concerns that they might forget to bring forward, so it’s really better who have someone involved in the industry,” said Antig.

The current tariff rate of imported items in Japan is at 8 percent during the summer and 18 percent during the winter. Antig said, if the tariff rate cannot be possibly eradicated, they would be happy with a decrease to 5 percent and 10 percent respectively.

As for South Korea, the current tariff rate is at 30 percent as the regulations of the Most Favored Nation (MFN) are being followed.

October of this year, PBGEA had also expressed their concern regarding the lowering down of tariff rates for Japan and Korea. Decreased tariff rates, Antig said, will help the Philippine banana industry be more competitive especially with the Ecuador as the top competition.

“If the tariffs are removed, chances are the volume of bananas that will be consumed by the Japanese will be increased. Same with the Korean cosumers… Hopefully, once we are able to regain the market share that we lost, we can continue to expand by another 10,000 to 15,000 hectares,” Antig said.

As for his part, PBGEA president Alexander Valoria believes that together with the reduction or elimination of tariff rates, the Philippine growers will be able to negotiate for higher prices and money would continue flowing back to the Philippines as an additional help to the banana industry development of the country.