PH looks to other venues to deepen US trade
MANILA -Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual on Wednesday said that the Philippines is not closing the doors to formalizing trade relations with the United States, a day after a senior trade official from the western country dashed hopes for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two allied nations under the Biden administration.
Pascual said he already discussed the matter with US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai a day earlier, where they also tackled issues concerning the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), as well as the US-Philippines Trade and Investment Framework.
“She cannot say otherwise because their President has already made that pronouncement that there would be no FTAs during his term. She is just voicing that and we understand,” Pascual told reporters on the sidelines of the forum organized by the Management Association of the Philippines in Makati.
“We had a discussion on this and we understand where she is coming from. But it cannot prevent us from further pushing,” he added.
Tai had told the local press a day earlier that the US is currently not considering traditional FTAs as the “appropriate” framework to address trade challenges and opportunities to date.
Despite this, Pascual said they are still hoping for the renewal of the Philippines’ eligibility to the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which expired at the tail-end of 2020.
“At the minimum, we want that to be renewed,” he said, referring to the US trade preference scheme which sees a long line of Philippine exports enjoying duty-free treatment.
Philippine exports to the western country under the GSP framework totaled around $1.6 billion in 2020, according to the Department of Trade and Industry, ranking fifth among GSP users after Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil and Cambodia.