PH to explore FTA with US

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Manila Bulletin | 5 February 2017

PH to explore FTA with US

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Philippines will explore a bilateral free trade agreement with the US even as it will prioritize completion and implementation of existing and ongoing trade deals.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the government will pursue free trade agreement option with the US in light of the Trump administration’s preference for bilateral FTAs instead of regional trade grouping arrangement.

Lopez, however, said the government has a plateful of existing and ongoing FTA negotiations like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP), European Free Trade Association, EU, and Russia.

“These are our priorities, our pending FTA negotiations. We can say the US would be in the exploratory stage, we are open,” said Lopez, adding that DTI, the government lead in trade negotiations, has to also consider any FTA deal in the overall trade strategy of the government.

In the meantime, Lopez said the Philippines is closely watching the preferential and zero duty privilege under the US-GSP scheme.

“At least we are enjoying the US-GSP and we are happy with that although that is not permanent but an FTA is for the long term,” he said.

The GSP scheme is a unilateral trade strategy of the US government with its developing trading partners, which are granted zero if not preferential tariff on their exports to the US. As such, export products that are considered already competitive are taken out of the list and would be slapped with regular tariff.

In fact, the US has yet to act on the Philippine petition to include travel goods in its list of eligible items for zero tariff under the GSP scheme.

John Forbes, senior advisor of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said they will revive its proposal for a bilateral FTA between the US and the Philippines.

Forbes stressed this is an opportune time since Trump is not interested in negotiating FTA deals on regional basis, preferring bilateral FTA negotiations.

Forbes noted that the US, the third largest Philippine trading partner, invested over $5 billion in one year.

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source: Manila Bulletin