United States dollar banknotes and an American flag are seen in this multiple exposure illustration photo. — JAKUB PORZYCKI/NURPHOTO VIA REUTERS CONNECT

A MAJOR American business group is vowing to help boost trade between the United States and the Philippines, as President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. called on Washington to quicken the revival of its special incentives program for Manila.

The United States Chamber of Commerce said it is committed to working with the US and Philippine governments and their respective private sectors to keep the momentum of commercial ties between the two allies.

“US-Philippine trade has not seen the growth that many of the Philippines’ neighbors have enjoyed in recent years,” US Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice-President for Asia Charles Freeman said in a recent business forum attended by Mr. Marcos, based on a statement posted on the Chamber’s website.

“The US Chamber of Commerce is committed to working with the Philippine and US governments and private sectors to close this gap and realize the full potential of our bilateral commercial relationship,” he added.

The US is the largest destination of Philippine-made goods, accounting for $11.54 billion or 15.7% of the Philippines’ export value last year. The US is also the fifth-largest source of Philippine imports last year at $8.41 billion.

“The US private sector is ready to invest more in the Philippines, recognizing its potential for growth. We warmly welcome the invitation from the Philippine government for increased investment and partnership,” US-ASEAN Business Council President and Chief Executive Officer Ted Osius was quoted as saying.

“The momentum in US-Philippines relations reflects a steadfast commitment to mutual prosperity and our long-lasting, powerful alliance,” he said.

In addressing the business forum, Mr. Marcos said: “The Philippines is open to US businesses.”

Last month, a high-level delegation of US companies led by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo vowed to invest $1 billion in the Philippines, spanning electric vehicles, digitization, and green energy.

The US has been at the forefront of international condemnation of China’s intrusions into the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, a much smaller nation that has been seeking more economic and security partnerships.

At the same forum, Mr. Marcos asked the US Congress “to fast-track the reauthorization of the US GSP program,” according to a statement from his office.

He noted that the Philippines has been a major market for US products. Citing data from the US Department of Agriculture, he said the Philippines in 2021 was the eighth-largest market for US agricultural exports and the top market in Southeast Asia.

The Philippine leader also pushed for a free trade agreement with the US, saying it will complement a US-Philippines partnership on critical minerals.

“The benefits for concluding an FTA  (free trade agreement) together with a Critical Minerals Agreement between both our countries will be transformative and will create new jobs, strengthen supply chains, establish new businesses, and upskill our workforce,” he said.

In April last year, US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai said an FTA with the Philippines was not on the table as the Biden government is focused on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), of which Manila is a member.

Meanwhile, Mr. Marcos said the government will explore closer ties with its neighbors in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Looking ahead, the upcoming Indo-Pacific Business Forum scheduled for May 21 this year in Manila, promises to be a significant platform for fostering infrastructure development and reinforcing economic ties in the region,” he said on Sunday.

The US Trade and Development Agency is hosting the Indo-Pacific Business Forum for the first time in Manila. It is expected to gather over 500 senior executives and government officials.

“This forum will serve as a catalyst for driving investment and growth in emerging economies,” he said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza with inputs from JVDO