Philippines gets TPP nudge from Canada, Mexico talks

Posted on July 03, 2012

THE ENTRY of Mexico and Canada into negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement is expected to provide more impetus for the Philippines to join the proposed multilateral free trade deal, with a ranking official noting that the government is eyeing increased exports to the two economies.

“Mexico and Canada’s participation in the TPP negotiations is a positive development because these are large markets and Mexico is considered as an emerging economy,� Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr. said at the sidelines of a media briefing last week.

“They are also among the top markets we are eyeing as new targets for exports,� he added.

The US and other countries negotiating the TPP have formally invited Mexico and Canada to join the talks “pending successful conclusion of domestic procedures� in both economies, separate statements posted on the Office of the US Trade Representative’s Web site showed.

The TPP, which involves expansion of a free trade deal initially signed in 2005 among Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, now has at least seven other countries in negotiations to join the pact.

Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc., said in a phone interview that the broader coverage makes entry into TPP negotiations “beneficial to the Philippines.�

“Because of the failure of the Doha round, it is now up to individual countries to make their own arrangements, either bilateral or multilateral, and the Philippines is very much behind in this area,� Mr. Ortiz-Luis said in a phone interview.

The World Trade Organization’s Doha multilateral trade talks remain stalled 11 years after negotiations began.

For his part, George N. Manzano, economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific and a former commissioner of the Tariff Commission, said in a separate phone interview that Mexico and Canada should also be viewed as competitors and not only as export markets.

“We have to find out what products from Mexico and Canada compete with our own exports to other TPP economies in order to assess how their entry into the negotiations impact the Philippines,� Mr. Manzano said.

“The thing is their participation in the TPP will provide them greater access to other countries negotiating the deal, including the US, which is one of our top export markets.�

Mr. Cristobal said the government is “aware of the challenges that must be addressed� before the Philippines can join TPP talks.

The Trade department in March said the Philippines has sought periodic meetings with TPP economies for updates on the proposed expanded regional pact.

One such discussion was held with Australia at the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting early last month from which Mr. Cristobal said the government “obtained insights on how to facilitate legislative and even constitutional reforms necessary before [the Philippines] can be part of the TPP.� -- Kim Arveen M. Patria