THE PHILIPPINES is negotiating to export special varieties of rice to Japan as the two countries undertake a general review of the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, a Trade department official said.

Ang taas ng taripa ng Japan for rice. Isa ’yun sa hinihingi natin. Kahit na sabi naming hindi naman namin babahain ang market ninyo ng bigas. Kami nga kulang, paano pa kami babaha sa inyo ng bigas? Bigyan ninyo lang kami ng maliit na quota para makapasok ’yung mga specialized rice na mas mababa sana. Ganoon yang mga formula na ine-explore natin (Japan charges high tariffs for rice — we’re seeking concessions on that front. Since we can’t even meet our own demand for rice, there is no way we will flood Japan with exports. We’re asking for a small quota for specialized rice types at a tariff that we hope will be lower. That is the formula we are exploring)” Trade Undersecretary for Industry Development and Trade Promotion Ceferino S. Rodolfo told reporters on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia Manila Conference.

The Philippines has been seeking easier market access to Japan for all agricultural goods, particularly tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes, and pineapples.

Japan’s agricultural lobby is politically influential and has resisted imports of the most widely consumed variety, Japonica, a short-grain type. The move to seek an opening for specialized rice appears to be an effort to address the high barriers for rice that competes with domestically produced varieties.

“Everything is on the table. Itable natin pero sinasabi nilang it’s difficult (We table proposals but they say it is difficult),” Mr. Rodolfo said.

He said the most recent meeting, which ended last week, marked the third round of the general review.

Takahiko Shiba, Trade and Commercial Attache at the Embassy of Japan to the Philippines, said Tokyo is also seeking easier market access for some goods to the Philippines, including automobiles and chemicals.

Japan is seeking lower tariffs particularly for vehicles with engine displacement not exceeding 3,000 cubic centimeters, for which the tariff is currently 20%. — Janina C. Lim