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US businessmen back Arroyo reform agenda

Philippine Daily Inquirer

US businessmen back Arroyo reform agenda

Posted: 0:25 AM | Sept. 17, 2004

Gil Cabacungan Jr. and Ronnel W. Domingo
Inquirer News Service

AMERICAN businessmen have given the thumbs up to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s move to undertake "painful" reforms in solving the fiscal crisis and a projected power crisis, Philippines-US Business Council chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr. said Thursday.

Del Rosario, who accompanied 40 American CEOs and other key executives to a lunch meeting with President Arroyo and her economic managers in Malacañang on Wednesday, said in an e-mail to the Inquirer: "The US delegation expressed admiration and very strong support for the President’s reform agenda, particularly on the decisive steps being taken to address the country’s fiscal problems and to assure a reliable supply of electricity in the future."

The American businessmen urged the President to continue pursuing aggressively the major revenue measures needed to boost government revenues and the implementation of full-cost based pricing for energy to attract investments into the energy sector.

US-ASEAN Business Council president Ernest Bower meanwhile said in a press briefing Thursday that the Philippines would need increased business promotion to improve its competitiveness in the US market, as Philippine exports to the US were expected to continue decreasing.

The end of the quota system on garments trade in January and the impending implementation of security regulations, such as a law on biosafety, are expected to contribute to the downtrend of Philippine exports to the US, Bower said.

Bower, who headed of the US business delegation that met the President on Wednesday, also said his group would continue to lobby with the US government for a Philippine-US free trade agreement, or FTA.

"After the US-Singapore FTA was passed last year, we hope to have a US-Philippines FTA next," he said, "but Malaysia may beat [the Philippines] to the door. We are lobbying our government to push ahead with this."

The Philippines and the US are preparing a trade and investment framework agreement that will pave the way for negotiations on a Philippines-US FTA.

At the meeting with the President and her economic team, the US businessmen raised several issues that they said the government should look into.

These included full implementation and funding of the Optical Media Law, which tightens rules against piracy of music, movie and software CDs and DVDs; full implementation of the cargo open skies policy at the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in the Clark Special Economic Zone north of Manila; and a stop to the entry of second-hand motor vehicles into the country via the Subic Bay Freeport.

The US delegation, representing 21 companies, is the largest American business mission to the Philippines in recent years. Its members included officials of The Boeing Co., Citigroup, FedEx, UPS, Philip Morris, General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Microsoft, Unysis Corp., and El Paso Energy.

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