US policies under Trump to impact on PHL — analysts

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By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

ON THE heels of US President Donald J. Trump’s second State of the Union address, analysts sought for comment on Wednesday said trade ties between the US and China, stricter US immigration policy, and Mr. Trump’s upcoming second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jung-on in Vietnam will have a direct impact on the Philippines.

Mr. Trump delivered his second State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Feb. 5, emphasizing his administration’s intention to address illegal immigration by renewing his call for a wall along the southern US border. He also cited his summit with Mr. Kim as part of his administration’s mission to “push for peace” in the Korean Peninsula.

The US President also said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are “working on a new trade deal.”

“But it must include real structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs,” Mr. Trump said.

Richard J. Heydarian, nonresident fellow of Stratbase ADR Institute, said in a phone interview that Mr. Trump’s immigration policy will have “the most direct impact” on the Philippines.

“It is because if the Trump administration continues its increasingly restrictive policy and if it continues its crackdown on illegal immigrants residing in the US, that will inevitably have a direct impact on hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who are there under questionable legal status or millions of Filipinos who wish to be naturalized or immigrate to the United States,” Mr. Heydarian said.

Also sought for comment, political history assistant professor Marlon B. Lopez of the Mindanao State University-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography said in a phone message: “The Philippines should always ensure that Filipinos in the US have proper documentation; and in case of illegal entry, the Philippines should look for their welfare while awaiting any US government move.”

In a phone interview, University of Santo Tomas (UST) political science professor Marlon M. Villarin said Mr. Trump’s policy announcements are “indicators that the United States has become more conservative.”

“Filipino immigrants in the US will definitely be affected, especially the job opportunities for those who are seeking a greener pasture in the US — the interests of the Filipino immigrants there. Even the tourism relationship will somehow be gravely affected.”

Mr. Villarin added that what the Philippine government should do is “to really anticipate the possible consequences” of Mr. Trump’s policy remarks. But he also noted this will depend on how the US Congress responds to Mr. Trump’s speech.

Ateneo Policy Center research fellow Michael Henry L. Yusingco said in an e-mail that, “for the moment, these policy announcements may not warrant any urgency, but the volatility of the US President demands that our government must be ready for any and all contingencies.”

“Obviously, the challenge for our government is navigating through all of these policy changes and formulating an appropriate response,” he added.

Mr. Yusingco also said the Philippine government “must give more attention to those involving Asia such as the Summit with North Korea, the withdrawal from Syria, Afghanistan, the Iran nuclear deal, and more crucially, the aggressive trade negotiations with Beijing.”

“For instance, the US’ trade issues with China have had some negative impact on us; however, it can also offer opportunities as well. Our economic managers must therefore determine what these opportunities are and react accordingly. It is obviously not as easy as it sounds, nonetheless, we should expect our government to be following this line of thinking,” he said further.

Mr. Heydarian said that if the US and China will not be able to strike a trade deal, there will be “relocations” of Western investments from China to Southeast Asian countries. “Countries like Vietnam have been benefiting from that,” he said.

He also noted that the Philippines “will, of course, suffer if there is an all-out trade war” between the two economies “because it will raise consumer prices globally.”

Under President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration, Mr. Heydarian also said, the Philippines “has been putting a lot of its eggs in the Chinese basket.”

“The thing is that we already saw last year that China’s economy is much more vulnerable than we thought. Their growth is decelerating significantly, especially based on the informal estimates, not the government estimates,” he said.

China’s economy at present “will have an immediate impact in terms of China’s investments in the Philippines and also on the arrival of Chinese tourists,” Mr. Heydarian said further.

Mr. Lopez said: “Overseas Filipino workers and skilled Filipinos whose line of jobs (belongs) to the affected sectors should beef up their capabilities so that they can cope up with stringent trade countermeasures such as stricter standards on labor employment to answer higher cost of export-import taxes.”

On Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Kim in Vietnam, Mr. Heydarian said: “If the summit produces a long-term peace agreement, that will significantly contribute in terms of the broader regional security and that is something great for Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China.”

Mr. Heydarian added that if a peace deal is attained, it will also help South Korea “to become a much more freehanded and free-willing partner of the ASEAN and the Philippines,” adding that threats from North Korea have been “hampering” South Korea from actively playing a significant economic role in the region.

Mr. Lopez said the Philippine government “should balance its commitment to a closer relationship with China, which happens to be a close ally of the North Korean regime, (with) the traditionality of US-RP alliance.” He also said the matter “really revolves around China and its support for North Korea.”

“Cold war politics should be dealt with Cold war diplomacy. Never go very far from the center,” Mr. Lopez said.