PH pushes for free-trade agreements with U.S.

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 13) — U.S. President Donald Trump  agreed to consider signing a free trade agreement  (FTA) with the Philippines as proposed by President Rodrigo Duterte during their bilateral talks on Monday.

“There was also a discussion on trade. The Philippines expressed a view that they’re appreciative of the general system of preference, and suggested that a free trade agreement also be concluded between the U.S. and the Philippines,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a briefing after the talks. ”President Trump said he will study the matter.

Roque said Trump raised the issue of high tariffs imposed by the Philippines on U.S. cars in their meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center.  The meeting lasted for 40 minutes.

“Trump singled out the issue of tariffs being imposed on U.S. automobiles, that is tariffs not being imposed on Japanese cars,” Roque said.

Special tariffs on Japanese cars, including gradual tariff reduction, is a provision under the 2006 Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement.  This is the only FTA the Philippines has with any country. 

The Philippines has an existing Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the U.S., which is a requirement for countries working towards an FTA.

The U.S., on the other hand, has 15 active bilateral FTAs, according to the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative.

Roque said the two leaders also agreed to improve trade between their countries. He said Trump’s message on this trip was to promote fair trade. 

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show the U.S. trade in goods with the Philippines had a deficit of $1.8 billion dollars in 2016,  in favor of Manila. The Philippines was the 31st largest goods export market of the U.S. in 2016.