THE UNITED STATES is not keen on a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Philippines or any of its trading partners, its trade chief said on Tuesday.
“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,” United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai said during a media roundtable in Makati City on Tuesday.
Ms. Tai said that the US is not currently looking at any bilateral FTAs with its trading partners. She noted the “traditional FTA” has been the cause of vulnerabilities currently experienced by the supply chains.
“(FTAs) 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 said.
“We feel like if you keep doing things the same way, then why would you expect to have different outcomes.”
The Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been pushing for a bilateral FTA between the Philippines and the US, citing its economic benefits.
Instead of a bilateral FTA, Ms. Tai said the US is more focused on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).
“I really want to emphasize the focus of the IPEF. This is the Biden administration’s most advanced trade initiative in the Indo-Pacific. It represents the thinking and the most current type of engagement that we are bringing to our trading partners,” Ms. Tai said.
Launched in May last year, the US-led IPEF pushes for resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness among the 14 participating nations such as the US, Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“Obviously, the IPEF is one of our highest priorities right now and it is really important to us that the Philippines is at the table and participating,” Ms. Tai said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Tai said the renewal of the Philippines’ participation in the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trading scheme is now up to the US Congress, adding there is no expected timeline for its approval.
The Philippines has also been pushing for the reauthorization of its GSP eligibility after it expired in 2020.
“The GSP program is for most of our developing country partners, and the Philippines being one of them. When you say the US government support, I just want to make clear that it is the US Congress that reauthorizes the GSP. I have expressed my support for the Congress to reauthorize, but that action must be taken by the US Congress,” Ms. Tai said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave