U.S. Pledges “Intensified Engagement” with Philippines on Trade
The U.S. and the Philippines agreed this week on a program of expanded engagement on bilateral, regional and multilateral trade issues, according to a press release from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Among other things, this work will aid Manila’s consideration of whether or not it will seek to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership now under negotiation among the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries.
USTR states that during a two-day meeting in Washington under the bilateral trade and investment framework agreement, the U.S. “recognized the considerable efforts the Philippines has made to strengthen its intellectual property regime and overall framework for protecting worker rights.” On the latter issue, the two sides agreed to establish a new work program on labor affairs to further their efforts. There were also detailed discussions on trade in agricultural products, including rice and meat, that will continue in the coming weeks.
In response to Philippine interest in the TPP, U.S. officials briefed their counterparts on the goals and objectives that the currently participating countries are seeking to achieve. The two sides began a program of technical consultations to provide the Philippine government the detailed information it will need to consider whether to seek to join the TPP agreement. They also agreed to intensify cooperation on issues involving the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as the trade and investment agenda for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which the Philippines will host in 2015.
USTR notes that total two-way trade in goods is about $18 billion and has increased 41% since 2009. Services trade has grown by an identical amount and exceeded $6 billion in 2012. U.S. foreign direct investment in the Philippines is roughly $5 billion and is concentrated in manufacturing.