US-PH FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
US President Donald Trump will “consider exploratory talks” on a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Philippines following a bilateral meeting on Monday, according to Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Lopez told reporters that the Philippine government raised to Trump and a US delegation the possibility of raising the current trade arrangements into an FTA.
He said they discussed the gains in trade so far, including those under the current preferential trade scheme.
“President Trump welcomed the suggestion and said they would consider exploratory talks on FTA,” Lopez said in a text message.
Even before this meeting, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had already been mulling the idea of an FTA with the US, which is one of the country’s top trade partners even without an FTA.
Trump is in Manila for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit, which is currently being hosted by this year’s chair, the Philippines.
US-Philippine relations had a rocky start under the Duterte administration. Duterte didn’t take lightly the criticisms of then-US President Barack Obama regarding his administration’s deadly drug war, prompting insults and even a threat to cut ties from the western superpower.
However, Trump’s leadership had been met with a more welcoming tone from Duterte. Trump was not critical of the drug war.
The Philippines is already a beneficiary of the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which provided duty-free access to the US market for a significant number of Philippine exports.