PHL in talks with Vietnam to maximize available trade deals

Posted on April 27, 2017

THE PHILIPPINES is calling for closer trade ties with Vietnam to widen the two countries’ domestic and export markets while making the most of the advantages offered by their separate trade agreements with other territories.

Garment factory workers -- FIL-PACIFIC APPAREL CORPORATION
On Wednesday, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement that Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez urged Vietnamese Vice-Minister for Trade and Industry Tran Quoc Khanh to “further strengthen bilateral trade between the Philippines and Vietnam.”

Mr. Lopez, who met with the Vietnamese official on Monday, also called on the country’s regional neighbor to “balance the import and export trade between the two Southeast Asian countries.”

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said the talks with Vietnam was “significant because the last time that we held the JTC (joint trade committee) was in 2003.”

“After 14 years, we covered a lot of issues,” said Mr. Rodolfo, who is also the managing head of the country’s investment promotion arm, the Board of Investments.

He said the talks covered developments in the regional and global trade environment, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an ambitious free trade agreement (FTA) pushed by the Obama administration, which has since been dropped by US President Donald Trump.

“As you know, Vietnam was poised to be part of the TPP (if it will enter) into force,” he said. “Vietnam has ramped up its production capacity for textiles in anticipation for TPP.”

But he said since the TPP deal had become uncertain, or should it go ahead, it would not include the biggest market -- the US, “we’re already discussing sourcing possibilities.” He said the talks include taking in Vietnam textiles, which the Philippines can further process, with the garments exported to the US and the European Union (EU).

Mr. Rodolfo said the same could apply for raw hides, a material that Vietnam supplies and which the Philippines is not self-sufficient in.

He said talks with Vietnam also covered “joining forces for a common advocacy so that we could expand the generalized system of preference (GSP) of the US to cover more goods that are important to us.”

The GSP allows entry into the US of preferential and duty-free products from 122 designated beneficiary countries and territories, including the Philippines. Garments are widely considered as among the protected products on the US market.

“We could say that with our sourcing cooperation (and) collaboration with Vietnam, textile companies who would invest in the Philippines are not just looking at our export market and our domestic market of 100 million but also the 100 million domestic market of Vietnam and also the export market of Vietnam,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

Vietnam is in the legal scrubbing phase of its FTA with the EU. The Philippines is currently negotiating an FTA with the regional bloc but it has easy market access to the EU through the GSP+ that allows tariff-free exports to Europe of more than 6,200 Philippine products, including processed fruit, coconut oil, footwear, fish and textiles.

Mr. Rodolfo also said Vietnam had expressed support and readiness in supplying rice to the Philippines should it decide to do so “in the quality and quantity needed.” -- Victor V. Saulon