The US may pursue a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which aims to boost economic activity with major economies, which bodes well for the Philippines.
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said it is possible for the economic powerhouse to strengthen trade ties with the region.
“They want to be able to cover the ASEAN region. Now we are focused on doing more economic activity across the ASEAN region,” he said at an event in Makati.
According to the ASEAN website, ASEAN’s total economic size was $3.2 trillion in 2019, making it the fifth largest economy in the world.
The United States and ASEAN currently have a Trade and Investment Promotion Agreement, which aims to facilitate economic activity between the parties. It outlines general goals and principles of cooperation to enhance trade and investment.
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ FTA negotiations with the US remain on hold, along with the renewal of its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits, which expired in 2020.
The GSP Agreement is a unilateral trade agreement that the United States has extended to 122 developing and least developed countries, including the Philippines. This will allow beneficiaries duty-free market access to the United States for approximately 5,000 products.
“We are working with trade officials in Washington, along with other ASEAN member countries such as Thailand and Vietnam,” Romualdez said.
“There has been some movement in that direction,” he added, noting that current discussions, including the Indonesia-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), have priority for now.
The United States launched IPEF last year alongside the Philippines, Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Members aim to discuss several areas of cooperation, including trade, supply chains, clean energy and anti-corruption.
“This framework will improve our economic resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, equity and competitiveness,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said.inquiry
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