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FTA with US seen expanding investment in PHL

A FREE TRADE agreement (FTA) with the US remains a Philippine priority, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said, citing such a deal’s potential for increasing investment in the Philippines.

“We continue to look forward to an FTA with the US which will serve as a more permanent mechanism to lock in market access interests and other binding commitments to expand bilateral trade and investment,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said during the US-Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Coalition Meeting in Bangkok on Nov. 18.

“We hope to build on the momentum of our previous dialogues on agriculture and intellectual property in moving towards possible FTA negotiations,” he added.

The DTI has described the US as among the Philippines’ targets for initiating FTA negotiations.

Mr. Pascual said that the Philippines is also awaiting the reauthorization of the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) scheme for the Philippines. The Philippines’ GSP eligibility expired in 2020 and is currently awaiting renewal.

Under the GSP, the Philippines can ship to the US free of duty more than 5,000 products, including electronics and agricultural goods.

In 2020, the Philippine GSP utilization rate was 74% and GSP shipments were valued at $1.56 billion, the DTI estimates.

“We are looking forward to the GSP’s immediate reauthorization to spur tangible benefits including investments and job creation and skills development for our workers. We continue to fulfill our commitments to all GSP statutes, including respecting workers’ rights and protecting US intellectual property,” Mr. Pascual said.

“The Philippines has consistently been a top beneficiary of the GSP and a top supplier of affordable imports for American manufacturers and consumers. The high utilization demonstrates that there are substantial savings by US importers in sourcing products from the Philippines. This also indicates a growing awareness and demand for GSP-listed Philippine exports by US manufacturers and consumers,” he added.

Mr. Pascual said that the Philippines will join the first negotiating meeting of the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in Brisbane, Australia in December.

The IPEF, launched in May, counts as participants the US, Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

He said that the Philippines is interested in securing grants, support, or procurement opportunities to support its industrial development.

“We also continue to seek sustainable investments from US and global companies, especially those that will strengthen the country’s position within the largest global value chains of critical sectors, such as semiconductors,” Mr. Pascual said.

“Through the Working Group on Economics, Development and Prosperity under the Philippines-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, we are also seeking cooperation on green metals to address the supply of critical minerals. We also support establishing a bilateral strategic partnership on metal processing for battery application and moving up from upstream to midstream in the battery supply chain,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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