THE Philippines has proposed an agenda for talks with Mexico to form a joint economic commission ahead of a possible free trade agreement (FTA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

“We normally start with a joint economic commission. This is more of a collaborative and partnership-based discussions… as we move forward towards a negotiation-based discussion,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said in a webinar Tuesday.

He said that the DTI is waiting for Mexico’s response to the Philippines’ proposed draft of the platform to expand bilateral trade and investment.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said he has proposed to the trade minister in Mexico talks for a potential free trade agreement.

“Hopefully we can start to explore the bilateral discussion and a potential FTA with Mexico, recognizing also that Mexico historically has been a strong trading partner of the Philippines.”

Mr. Lopez also said that the Philippines is still committed to a possible FTA with the US.

“However, we also depend on the timing I guess and the moves from the US side. Hopefully, from what we understood, the USTR (United States Trade Representative) will have to have approval from the US Congress and I think that is what we’re just waiting for. But from the Philippine side, we are ready to continue the discussion.”

Mr. Lopez in January said that negotiations for an FTA with the US could be hampered by the mood in the US Congress after Malacañang threatened to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The Department of Foreign Affairs on June 1 sent a letter to Washington saying that the Philippines is suspending the termination of the agreement.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez in the webinar called this a positive development.

“It demonstrates what the alliance means for the Philippines and the United States. The VFA is a critical aspect of our relationship and will play a key role in the security of our nation especially at the time of the pandemic and growing uncertainty in the regional and global area.” — Jenina P. Ibañez