PH to join first IPEF negotiation meeting

The Philippines will join in the first negotiating meeting of the US-led Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in Brisbane, Australia in December this year and its intention to tap grants and support for industry developments under the initiative, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual announced.

Pascual announced the Philippines intention in his introductory remarks during the US-APEC Business Coalition Meeting in Bangkok on Thursday, Nov. 18, stating the Philippines sees IPEF as a mechanism that will provide opportunities to cooperate on trade and investment.

“We are looking forward to joining the first negotiating meeting this December in Brisbane,” said Pascual. Amb. Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director, US-ASEAN Business Council was among the meeting participants.

Pascual further laid out the country’s intention to tap into grants, support or procurement opportunities to complement industry development initiatives of the Philippines.

During the IPEF meetings, Pascual said the Philippines strongly supported provisions on building supply chain integration and strengthening crisis response stressing “Mitigation of disruptions and vulnerabilities is a critical concern, especially the mobilization of investments and cooperation to ensure reliability in the supply of goods and related services.”

Likewise, Pascual said that the Philippine government continues to seek sustainable investments from US and global companies, especially those that will strengthen the country’s position within the largest global value chains of critical sectors, such as semiconductors.

The Philippines is looking forward to the US Generalized System of Preference’s (GSP) immediate reauthorization to spur tangible benefits including investments and job creation and skills development for workers.

He vowed that the Marcos administration will continue to fulfill commitments to all GSP statutes, including respecting workers’ rights and protecting US intellectual property.

The US remains among the top trade partners of the Philippines even during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the US was our top export market and our 5th largest import market. This he attributed to the robust trade mechanisms in place that facilitate liberalized rules leading to enhanced preferential market access, which include the GSP.

But Pascual also emphasized the need for a more permanent economic partnership via a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). “We hope to build on the momentum of our previous dialogues on agriculture and intellectual property in moving towards possible FTA negotiations,” he said.

Through the Working Group on Economics, Development and Prosperity (WGEDP) under the Philippines-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD), the Philippines is also seeking cooperation on green metals to address the supply of critical minerals.

“We also support establishing a bilateral strategic partnership on metal processing for battery application and moving up from upstream to midstream in the battery supply chain,” he said.

He said that the government is monitoring the ongoing developments on the Chip 4 as the Philippines remained interested in the initiative to address the pandemic-driven gap in the global semiconductor supply chain. “The semiconductor and electronics industry is one of the largest contributors to the Philippines’ manufacturing sector. The potential for the industry remains high, and firms are moving to create higher value-added products to meet global demand,” he said.

In support of industry development initiatives, Pascual briefed the US-APEC business gathering that the Philippines is working to eliminate tariffs on electric vehicles (EVs), liberalize current investment regimes on solar, wind and tidal energy, and extend the duty-free status of imported meat, rice, corn, and coal in response to disruptions in the supply of the same.

He also apprised that of the passage of key legislations to provide a more conducive and transparent business environment, including the CREATE Act, Amended Foreign Investment Act, Amended Trade and Retail Liberalization Act, Public Service Act and the 2022 Strategic Investment Priority Plan.