By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
US-PH Society, a private sector entity engaged in promoting economic relations between the two countries, expects the proposed bilateral free trade agreement to offer better access in each other’s markets as well as the inclusion of a new provision on digital commerce.
Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, co-chairman of US-PH Society, said initial discussions revolved around better access whether it is for trade, services and investments.
Pangilinan noted that the Generalized System of Preferences grants preferential duty treatment on a number of Philippine exports to the US.
In terms of investments, he cited incentives, protection of investments, repatriation of capital and consistency in the application of laws.
While he described discussions on the proposed bilateral FTA as still at the basement level, Pangilinan stressed the need to seriously consider the deal citing there are only 4 countries the US has considered for bilateral FTA. These are UK, EU, Japan, and the Philippines.
“So, I think we should seriously look into this because the US is one of our biggest markets,” said Pangilinan, who is chair of PLDT, the country’s leading telco company.
Ambassador John Negroponte, co-chair of US-PH Society, also said that based on his experience the basic philosophy of a trade agreement is to maximize each other’s access to each other’s markets.
This means having markets that is as free as possible from the obstacles of trade and services and investments.
Negroponte also raised the inclusion of a new element on digital commerce saying this chapter is now part of the trade deal with Mexico. Digital commerce is also present in the Trans Pacific Partnership.
But the most basic in an FTA deal, the former US Ambassador to the Philippines said, is for a free interaction between the two countries’ economies but which should be done in careful and systematic way.
When asked on the impact of the recent arrest of Philippine journalist Maria Ressa on a libel case filed against her, Negroponte said that this is a political matter that some Senators raised against the Philippines’ freedom of expression and Reesa’s human rights and freedom of expression that may affect the future of the proposed trade deal.
But he also said that since the trade deal will go to Congress it could affect the environment as it is a factor Congress would have to deal with.
Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, however, said they have already responded to the US Senators who wrote to them.
“We welcome of course the inquiry but we also remind our friends we are a sovereign country and we follow our laws,” said Romualdez.