The U.S. and the Philippines engaged in what the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative called “constructive discussions” on a number of trade issues at the latest meeting under their bilateral trade and investment framework agreement.

In an effort to expeditiously address issues concerning agriculture, intellectual property rights protection, customs, and investment, the two sides agreed to take follow-up actions and closely monitor progress. In its most recent trade barriers report USTR raised the following concerns on these issues with respect to the Philippines.

- agriculture: “unscientific requirements” on frozen meat, which is primarily imported; delays in the issuance of required sanitary and phytosanitary permits

- IPR: increasing online piracy, counterfeit drugs, weak provisions in patent law that may preclude the issuance of patents on certain chemical forms, slow investigation of IPR-related cases, judicial inexperience handling IPR enforcement cases

- customs: irregularities in the valuation process, 100 percent inspection and testing of some products, officials requiring payment of unrecorded facilitation fees

- investment: higher export performance requirements on foreign-owned enterprises than Philippine-owned companies when providing incentives under the Investment Priorities Plan

Officials also discussed regional and global trade developments, including the Philippines’ progress in implementing the World Trade Organization’s expanded Information Technology Agreement and Trade Facilitation Agreement. In addition, they agreed to work closely together to further the U.S.-ASEAN trade and investment agenda. These topics are largely the same as those the two sides addressed at the 2016 TIFA meeting.

Goods trade between the U.S. and the Philippines totaled $18.2 billion in 2016, an amount that officials said they would work to increase. They also agreed to “work together to foster free, fair, and balanced trade between them,” although USTR noted that the U.S. trade deficit with the Philippines in 2016 was just $1.8 billion, down 23.3 percent from the previous year.

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