ABS-CBN News | 8 August 2004
By LAWRENCE AGCAOILI
The government is set to pursue plans to enter into an economic partnership or free-trade agreement with its largest trading partner the United States, Trade Undersecretary Thomas Aquino said.
Aquino told reporters that the government has informed top officials of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office during a meeting late last week about the country’s plan to pursue a planned free-trade deal with the US. Aquino said USTR deputy assistant Barbara Weisel together with David Katz and US Department of Commerce David Bisbee made a courtesy call to Trade Secretary Cesar Purisima.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has already asked the Philippine Institute for Development Studies to undertake a cost-benefit study on the proposed economic partnership between the Philippines and the United States. Aquino said the preliminary results of the study would come out either in October or in June.
“Let’s just face it, the US is still our biggest investor, our biggest trading partner, and our biggest market for export products,” Aquino said.
During the meeting, Aquino said the Philippines wants to make sure that it could live up with requirements before it enters into a free-trade agreement with the US.
Delegates from the USTR informed the Philippine negotiators that the US government only wants to enter into economic partnerships with countries that are in a position to live up to its various commitments, understand the US market and have hassle-free export-import procedures, including the capacity to ward off counterfeit products, among others.
“So that is basically their sense. If we want to have free-trade agreement with them, this is how they look at countries. These are serious commitments and they are just telling us,” Aquino said.
Plans to enter into bilateral free-trade agreements with various countries in Southeast Asia was raised by the United States during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in Mexico in 2001. So far, the US government has entered into a free-trade agreement with Singapore and is already wrapping up talks with Thailand.
The Philippines, on the other hand, is finalizing the Japan Philippines economic partnership agreement.
Aquino said other issues and concerns under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement discussed with the USTR officials include intellectual property rights (IPR), income and job creation, infrastructure, investments, exports, garments, as well as financial and power reforms.DTI officials also apprised USTR representatives about the efforts being undertaken by the government so that the Philippines would be removed from the US government’s annual priority watchlist of IPR violators.