MANILA, Philippines--Merchandise exports to Japan in the first four months of the year grew by 5.5 percent to $2.97 billion, as garments firms sought the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
The Japan External Trade Organization said records showed that Philippine imports from Japan rose by 11.6 percent to $3.35 billion.
During the four-month period, Japan's trade surplus with the Philippines reached $375.86 million or more than double the $182.72 million a year ago.
As of end-April, shipments from the Philippines accounted for 1.2 percent of Japan's total imports worth $265.61 billion.
Japan's merchandise shipments to the Philippines accounted for 1.3 percent of Japan's total exports of some $241.7 billion.
For April alone, Philippine exports to Japan increased by 8.8 percent to $733.92 million from year-ago level.
At the same time, imports from Japan went up by 19.2 percent to $876.8 million.
In April, Japan's trade surplus with the Philippines reached $142.88 million, up 74 percent from a year ago.
Earlier, the Confederation of Garments Exporters of the Philippines urged the Senate to ratify the JPEPA, saying this would help the local industry get back on its feet from its current state of "merely getting by."
Congep president Lawrence delos Santos said that "with a little tweaking," the JPEPA would bring in an immediate $200 million in additional exports and 7,000 additional jobs for the sector.
Delos Santos said the garments and textiles sector suffered a 13-percent decline in 2007, with exports reaching $2.2 billion compared to $2.6 billion in 2006.
He said the 50-member Congep, which represents half of the industry in terms of shipment value, was hoping for the sector to at least match earnings in 2008.
Delos Santos said Congep was expecting another weak year because buyers from the United States, which account for three-quarters of Philippine garment exports, were adjusting their orders due to economic concerns.
He said US buyers have cut their initial orders, which in the past years represented the bulk of shipment for the entire business year.