By Victor V. Saulon

US, ASEAN members agree to boost trade ties

Posted on February 20, 2016

THE UNITED STATES and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to “further deepen ties and job-promoting trade and economic opportunities” among them, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said.

In a statement posted on the Web site of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the agreement “is an important priority” for the US.

“We believe that today’s discussions will propel our efforts to further our economic partnership, which holds significant promise,” he said.

Regional leaders are in the US this week for the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit. The event highlighted the opportunities to promote jobs through enhanced trade and investments between the trading partners. It is hosted by US President Barack Obama.

The summit arose after a proposal from Mr. Obama during the third ASEAN-US Summit held in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 21, 2015 on the decision of the leaders to elevate the dialogue to “strategic partner level.”

During this week’s meetings, the US official and ASEAN ministers talked about the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership, and agreed to start a new series of trade workshops to help the countries in the regional trading bloc to better understand commitments under high-standard trade deals such as the TPP.

Sought for comment, Philippine tariff officials said they had been instructed to continue to look at how the country could benefit from the TPP.

“The Philippines is now looking at the offensive and defensive interest of the country when it goes into negotiation with members of Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Ma. Lourdes M. Saluta, director of the Tariff Commission’s research investigation and international trade analysis service.

“We’re preparing a study if it’s beneficial for the country... but that’s internal to us,” she said on the sidelines of a tariff liberalization forum yesterday.

She added that there was an instruction from the President that the country is really keen on joining.

The US-ASEAN meeting also looked into the US-ASEAN Connect, a unified strategic vision for US economic engagement with ASEAN, which will include the establishment of three ASEAN Connect hubs in Jakarta, Singapore, and Bangkok.

The US trade official said that both the US and ASEAN had “strong high-level representation for the meetings, reflecting importance of US economic ties with ASEAN, which collectively is our fourth largest export market.”

In 2015, two-way goods trade between the US and ASEAN reached $227 billion, supporting over 370,000 US jobs, the US trade office said.

It added that since 2009, trade in goods with ASEAN has expanded by 47%. Last year, US exports of farm products to the region hit $10.1 billion, while exports of services reached $22.6 billion in 2014, the latest available statistics.