THE Philippines is interested in the areas of supply chain integration and strengthening crisis response under the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said.
Pascual expressed this view during his meeting with officials of the US-Apec Business Coalition during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2023 Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting. The Apec-MRT gab focused on trade and investment opportunities between the US and the Philippines, according to a statement issued last Saturday by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
According to the DTI, their chief emphasized that Manila is keen in participating in the IPEF, a US-led economic framework among 14 member countries.
“Our participation in IPEF is significant as it is a mechanism that will offer tangible benefits, which will further boost our economic recovery efforts such as more opportunities to cooperate on trade and investment,” Pascual said. “We are mainly interested in the areas of supply chain integration and strengthening crisis response.”
Nations joining the United States in the IPEF are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
These countries in the Indo-Pacific region recognized that the Covid-19 pandemic underscored the importance of working closely together to ensure that economic recovery and advancement are grounded in resilience, sustainability and inclusivity.
THE countries collectively said the pandemic showed the significance of strengthening economic competitiveness and cooperation and securing critical supply chains, while stimulating job growth and improving economic opportunities.
The IPEF’s creation stems from Washington’s predilection against negotiating “traditional” free trade agreements (FTA) as cited by US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai in a roundtable discussion with local media last April.
Reports quoted Tai as saying that in terms of a more “traditional” FTA, the US is not currently negotiating any such agreements with trading partners in particular because “we do not see that traditional program being appropriate for the types of challenges and opportunities that we are facing right now.”
Instead, the US Trade official zeroed in on the US-led IPEF as “one of our highest priorities right now.”
“And it is really important to us that the Philippines is at the table and participating,” Tai was quoted in the reports as saying.
According to Pascual, the IPEF “is the platform we’re using to push for this formalized trade relations between the Philippines and the US.”
While IPEF is not a trade agreement that covers market access, “it provides a way of addressing certain process constraints,” the Trade chief said last month.
ASIDE from the IPEF, Pascual also emphasized the need for the immediate re-authorization of the US Generalized System of Preferences (US GSP). The Philippines’s eligibility for the US GSP expired on December 31, 2020.
The GSP deal is a unilateral preferential trade arrangement by the US to over 100 beneficiary developing countries.
According to DTI, Pascual highlighted the “robust” trade scheme that the Philippines has created for companies exporting to the US market.
Further, he emphasized that the reauthorization will spur more investments, generate jobs and promote skills development. Likewise, Pascual continued to convey the country’s desire to establish an FTA with the United States, noting the “vast trade and investment opportunities available between the two economies.”
In terms of industry development, Pascual highlighted the tariffs on electric vehicles in the country were eliminated, current investment regimes on solar, wind and tidal energy were liberalized and the duty-free status of imported meat, rice, corn and coal were extended to respond to global supply chain disruptions.
The US is a key trading partner of the Philippines. In 2022, the US was the country’s top export market and 5th largest import market. Relative to this, exports expanded by 5 percent in 2022 and imports grew by 15 percent from 2021, DTI said.