Manila, Washington begin consultations on Philippines' possible TPP entry

Heads of state of TPP participating countries in Japan last December. Photo from USTR website means BUSINESS

MANILA - A Philippine government delegation recently met with a top official of the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) to explore Manila's possible participation in a new free trade area that Washington is pushing among Asia-Pacific countries.

In a statement, the USTR said Assistant Trade Representative Barbara Weisel met in Washington with the Philippine delegation composed of Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr., Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano and Tariff Commission Chairman Edgardo Abon.

The two-day meeting was held as part of both countries' Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

The USTR said Weisel discussed the goals and objectives of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with the Philippine officials after Manila earlier expressed interest in joining negotiations.

"The two sides began a program of technical consultations to provide the Philippine government the detailed information it will need to consider whether to seek to join the TPP agreement," the USTR said.

Besides the US, other countries joining the TPP are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The USTR said it recognizes the Philippines' efforts to address intellectual property rights and labor rights issues, both of which have been sticking points in their trade relations.

"The two sides agreed to establish a new work program on labor affairs
under the TIFA to further our efforts," the USTR said.

The US is one of the Philippines' top trading partners, with two-way trade reaching $18 billion since 2009. Besides trade, the US also is a top source of foreign investments reaching $5 billion as of last count.