By Kris M. Crismundo
The Duterte administration is optimistic to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and other free trade agreements (FTAs), Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told the Philippines News Agency.
Lopez said the administration is open in joining FTAs like the TPP as it will expand the market for Philippine products and services.
“We are studying our participation (in TPP),” he said.
“We can’t afford to be left behind because we won’t be able to benefit from those benefits of participating TPP,” he added.
The TPP Agreement is a trade deal among twelve countries in the Pacific Rim which aims to promote economic growth in the region.
The TPP is composed of including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.
Lopez also mentioned that the administration’s initiative to amend the Constitution shall consider easing some economic restrictions that will meet the requirement of joining FTAs such as the TPP.
Earlier, Philippine Ambassador to United States Jose L. Cuisia noted that the move of the Duterte administration for a constitutional assembly is “a good opportunity” for the country to address its biggest challenge in joining TPP — allowing higher foreign ownership in different sectors.
Cuisia added that the country should also continue bilateral consultations with TPP members.
Last year, the Department of Trade and Industry conducted technical consultations with six TPP members: Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, and US.
US President Barack Obama, in his visit in Manila in November 2015 for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting, has welcomed the Philippines’ interest in joining the trade deal and has directed its trade ministers to work with Philippine trade officials to assist the country in its bid to join the TPP.
Moreover, Cuisia said that Philippine industries need to prepare and be more competitive as the country eyes for TPP membership.
“We should prepare ourselves,” the envoy stressed.
“If it (the TPP) is ratified (by US Congress), when they will open up to second batch of countries, we should be ready for that second batch,” he added.
Aside from the Philippines, other countries that expressed interest to join the TPP include South Korea, Taiwan, Laos, Columbia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and India.
Cuisia likewise noted that the TPP is also the only way for the Philippines to have trade agreement with US as the latter no longer prefer single-country agreements but favors multi-lateral pacts like the TPP.
“I’m hopeful that the secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez and Undersecretary (Ceferino) Rodolfo, who are quite familiar with it, will pursue the Philippines’ membership in the TPP,” said Cuisia.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that US is the country’s second export destination for merchandise in January to May 2016 with revenue amounting to USD3.52 billion, sharing 16 percent of the total exports in the said period.
Even without an FTA, 70 percent of Philippine goods entering the US market enjoy zero duty because of the US Generalized System of Preferences. (PNA)