US in potential FTA with the Philippines

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Just Style | 29 May 2018

US in potential FTA talks with the Philippines

by Beth Wright

The US has said it looks forward to resolving outstanding issues with the Philippines and exploring the best method in which to strengthen and expand trade relations between the two countries.

Speaking after a meeting with senior Philippine economic ministers, US and Philippine
business leaders, and Philippine senators, deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish said greater engagement on trade and investment will benefit both countries and echoed President Trump’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.

The talks, held on 23 May to discuss trade and investment issues and ways to enhance the bilateral economic relationship between the Philippines and the US, followed a meeting between President Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in November of last year. According to a release from the Office of the US Trade Representative, this meeting saw the US welcome Philippine interest in deepening the bilateral trade relationship through consideration of a potential free trade agreement (FTA).

Now, while Ambassador Gerrish highlighted the long-standing importance of the US Philippine trade relationship, and agreed to further cooperation under the bilateral trade and investment framework agreement, he said outstanding trade issues must first be resolved.

"Greater engagement on trade and investment will benefit both countries, and we look forward to resolving outstanding issues and exploring the best arrangement for strengthening and expanding our trade relations, Gerrish said last week.

The statement "suggests that the US wants to resolve several outstanding trade issues before it will seriously consider a potential free trade agreement with the Philippines," according to international law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg.

Issues of concern regarding the Philippines included in USTR’s 2018 trade barriers report include corruption and irregularities in customs processing, fiscal incentives for export-oriented investments, the continued availability of pirated and counterfeit goods, and significant restrictions on foreign investment, according to the firm’s trade report published yesterday (28 May).

The Philippines is currently the United States’ 31st largest goods trading partner. In 2017, bilateral US goods trade with the Philippines was US$20.1bn, with US exports of $8.5bn and US imports from the Philippines of $11.6bn.

USTR notes that the US had trade deficits of $3.2bn in goods and $3.5bn in services with the Philippines in 2017.

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