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Philippine-American Relations – More and Beyond 75 years

The Philippine Ambassador to the US recently contacted me, as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce Philippines, to seek support for a celebration of 75 years of diplomatic relations between our countries.

My first reaction was that of surprise. The US and the Philippines have had political relations – and certainly business relations – for over a century, so it took a bit of a history lesson to understand the impact of his request.

It is worth noting that AmCham Philippines has been active here since 1902, with the primary objective being to promote business between the two countries. We have survived continuously for 119 years, with the exception of the three year period (1942-45) during the World War II Japanese occupation.

Actually the initial US contact between our countries began 225 years ago, in 1796, when the small trading ship “Astrea” – the first ship to fly the American flag in Manila Bay – dropped anchor, enroute to the US from Lisbon, Portugal.  She loaded 750,000 lbs. of sugar, 63,695 lbs of pepper and 29,637 lbs of indigo for the US market – and relations have continued to the present.

However, true diplomatic relations began on July 4, 1946 with the lowering of the American flag and the raising of the Philippine flag over a fully independent Philippines.

It is with great pride that  we at the Chamber have been at the forefront in support of Philippine-US diplomatic relations over the past 75 years  from this official beginning.

There have been strains and disagreements between Washington and Manila over these 75 years but never a question that the bond between the Filipino people with America and American’s bond with the Filipino people remains unbroken, and grows stronger.

AmCham receives many inquiries about the Philippine business climate and whether it is a good place in which for American companies to invest. The short answer is always patterned around the indisputable fact that the Filipinos are the most pro-American consumers in the world. Just visit a supermarket and observe the buying habits of the customers and take a look at the goods lining the shelves.

The above is a result of at least 75 years of mutual respect. Companies expecting to make a quick buck should avoid coming to the Philippines. It takes time and patience to succeed, but certainly those that exert effort to establish themselves will never regret the decision.

There have been several attempts to establish a US-Philippine Free Trade agreement but those efforts haven’t been successful to date.  However, AmCham is advocating for the US to re-enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP; formerly known as the TPP). The Chamber also believes the Philippines should join simultaneously. It will take a few years but it will certainly increase trade between the two countries.

Recovery from the current Covid 19 pandemic will be slow but steady.  And let there be no doubt that the US will be the number one partner of the Philippines in aiding economic recovery. With the recent passing of pro-business legislation, the private sector will also do its part in the recovery by investing more into the country.

AmCham believes that the best years are still ahead for Philippine- US business and diplomatic relations and they will continue to flourish beyond another 75 years. Ebb Hinchliffe  Executive Director at American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines

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