THE American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham) said any prospective free trade agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and the US needs to be narrower in scope and tailored to both countries’ needs.

It said a less ambitious FTA compared to typical trade deals will keep the momentum for free trade going as President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. visits the US, and after the US Trade Representative recently downplayed the prospects for an FTA.

“AmCham Philippines continues to lobby for an FTA between the two countries in spite of the recent comments by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai here in the Philippines,” AmCham Executive Director Ebb Hinchliffe told BusinessWorld via Viber.  

“An FTA that is specific to a win-win for both countries. Shorter and more specific than that of the usual wide-range FTA agenda,” he added.

Mr. Hinchliffe said AmCham hopes FTA talks will move forward during the US visit of Mr. Marcos, which runs until May 4.

Last month, Ms. Tai said in Manila that a bilateral FTA between the Philippines and the US is not currently in the pipeline for the Biden administration.

“In terms of a more traditional FTA, we are not currently negotiating any such agreements with our trading partners because we do not see that traditional program being appropriate for the types of challenges and opportunities that we are facing right now,” Ms. Tai said.  

“When I talk about a traditional FTA, it is not whether it is bilateral or with more countries. It’s really what is inside the FTA. They always are working to create incentives for economic participants to maximize efficiency. So this is part of the incentive structure that has created the kind of vulnerabilities that we see in supply chains today. That is an important reason why we are not doing the traditional FTA,” she added.  

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has said that a prospective FTA will help assure market access for the two countries’ exporters.

Mr. Hinchliffe said AmCham also supports an agreement on minerals with the US to improve the environment for incoming investment.

The Philippines has been touted as one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world.

“We also hope that they discuss a minerals agreement similar to the one that China and Japan have with the Philippines,” he said, adding that also on the wish list is increased involvement by specific manufacturing industries like pharmaceuticals or agricultural products.

“Another would be renewable energy and energy storage,” Mr. Hinchliffe said.

“It is excellent that the two leaders are meeting again. The fact they have met twice in less than a year shows the importance of our relationship with each other,” he added.

In January, the US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said that bilateral trade between the two countries could have exceeded $33 billion in 2022, with over $21 billion consisting of Philippine exports to the US. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave