MANILA, Philippines —The Philippines aims to further enhance its access to the United States — now, through a possible bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with the world’s biggest economy.
Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo told reporters that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is doing a study for a possible FTA with the US, looking at the benefits of having a trade deal with the US and the alignment of policies of the two countries.
This is after the US pulled out of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, and will be pushing for bilateral trade deals than multilateral FTAs.
“The US trade policy will really be towards bilateral rather than multilateral or regional,” Rodolfo said.
“For us, we put forward that the Philippines is interested in further enhancing our market access to the US. That has always been a key objective of the Philippines whether we attain it through the TPP or enhancement of the GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) or a bilateral FTA, we will pursue it,” he added.
The trade official mentioned that the US will base the future FTAs on a study determining which markets US have trade deficit. The study is expected to be released by the fourth quarter of the year.
Initially, the US identified markets which it has USD10-billion trade deficit. The list includes Canada, China, European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Apart from the trade deficit study, the US will also consider the market size of a country and its policy gap with the US.
Rodolfo noted that the Philippines is an attractive market for the US with its over 100 million population.
Moreover, Rodolfo mentioned that the policies of the Philippines and the US are not difficult to align as the two countries have been collaborating to improve trade ties through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
“What we are saying is that, under the TIFA, we have closed the gap in most of the issues,” he said in Filipino.
He mentioned that among the major policy issues between the Philippines and the US include the intellectual property issues which applies to public health; foreign equity restrictions, particularly in public services; sensitivity on geographic indications; and government procurement.
“We are doing internal study at DTI taking off from the gap analysis that we did when we wanted to join the TPP,” Rodolfo said noting that the two countries had technical consultations since the Philippines eyes to join the TPP.
The Obama administration then committed to the Philippines to conduct technical consultations in preparation for TPP membership.
The official also mentioned that in the recent TIFA meeting last week, US welcomed the move of the current administration to amend the Public Service Act.
“We emphasize that we are doing this not because we are anticipating to have an FTA with the US, but we are doing this because this is really important for our competitiveness, knowing that these industries are the very same industries that would form the backbone for our competitiveness,” Rodolfo added. (Kris M. Crismundo/PNA)