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PHL, US get ready for free trade plan talks

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MAKATI CITY – The Philippine and United States governments are now making internal preparations ahead of formal talks on a possible expansion of trade relations.





Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said the longtime allies will be engaging in discussions for a possible free trade agreement (FTA).


“What I can confirm is that talks are ongoing, both the talks between the US and the Philippines and the internal processes of both sides. We do not want to preempt the processor and the result. But the intention is to come to a decision whatever will that be -- on whether to start an FTA negotiation or not,” added Rodolfo.


United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, in his opening statement during a Senate hearing, said that his office is “actively engaging in efforts to commence new trade agreements”.


“We are speaking with a number of countries in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa,” Lighthizer said.


Last May, a USTR delegation led by its representative for Asia Jeffrey Gerrish visited the Philippines and met with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.


During the meeting, both DTI and the USTR reaffirmed their interest for exploratory discussions for a possible FTA.


The Philippine government has raised to US President Donald Trump its interest to have a free trade deal with the US during Trump’s visit in the country when it hosted the 31st ASEAN Summit in November 2017.


The Philippines’ suggestion was then welcomed by Trump.


“With this ongoing uncertainty in global environment where there are more protectionist measures being instituted by both sides and there is fear in escalation of trade war, I think it is imperative for us to discuss and to ensure that our exporters will continue to have good access to key markets and that include also the US,” Rodolfo noted.


“Some of our products that go to other countries as part of the value chain end up in the US. Preserving and securing and enhancing market access to the US is very important. It can come by way of the FTA, or some other ways. But what is important is that we are looking closely at it and closely discussing it with the US,” he added.


Bilateral trade between the two countries last year reached US$20 billion.


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