By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
THE Philippines and the United States are “moving forward” on the negotiations for a free trade agreement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said on Monday.
In an interview with reporters before his departure for the United Nations General Assembly at the Manila Airport, Mr. Cayetano said he met with his US counterpart Michael R. Pompeo in Singapore to discuss the matter.
Messrs. Cayetano and Pompeo attended the 51st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore last August.
“In Singapore, I had a talk with Secretary of State Pompeo and in fact we are starting to- — we’re moving forward on negotiating a free trade agreement (with) the US, which will be very good to us,” Mr. Cayetano said.
The statement came in response to queries on the impact of US immigration policies on Filipinos.
Mr. Cayetano said Philippines-US relations remained “very good” despite President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s criticisms of US foreign policy towards the country, citing the many meetings between Mr. Duterte’s Cabinet officials and their US counterparts.
“Our relationship with the US is very good despite some differences and despite the President’s correct comments and apprehensions about certain parts of the relationship. In just the last two months, many Cabinet members have seen their counterparts,” said the foreign affairs secretary.
According to a July Reuters report, the Philippines is set to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement with the US in September to expand market access for its agricultural products.
Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez was quoted as saying that the first round of talks will be held in Washington. He said labor, intellectual property and agriculture would likely be the focus in the discussions.
The Philippines had proposed a free trade agreement during bilateral talks between Mr. Duterte and US President Donald J. Trump on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in November last year.
July 2018 export data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed the United States ranking first in export shipments. Outbound shipments to the US was valued at $972.52 million, comprising 16.6% of the total exports for the month.
In the same month, the US came in as the fifth source of imports with a 7% share of the $9.397 billion total. Import payments to the US reached $653.14 million.
Compared with the July 2017 trade performance with the US, exports grew by 7.4% from the $905.32 million value, while imports went up by 21% from $539.92 million.