|Philippines pointed towards TPP by APEC official|
20 SEPTEMBER 2010: The US senior official to APEC, Kurt Tong, has told BusinessWorld that the Philippines would be best advised to concentrate on taking steps to become a viable partner in the TPP.
Speaking on the sidelines of a lecture at the Asian Institute of Management, Tong told reporters that a bilateral trade pact between the US and the Philippines was not an option at this time, and that a US-ASEAN FTA was also not being considered - he also noted that a number of ASEAN nations are currently participating in the TPP negotiations or have expressed interest in doing so (Malaysia, Japan).
Tong suggested the Philippines, which currently forms the US's second largest export market after China and Hong Kong, may want to take a look at the standard the TPP is likely to reach and 'benchmark' against it.
No US plans for RP, ASEAN trade deals
Trans-Pacific Partnership best bet for Philippines
THE PHILIPPINES may have to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal if it wants a trade pact with the United States, a visiting American official said on Friday.
Washington has no plans for a bilateral trade pact with the Philippines nor for a deal with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as it prefers to focus on the TPP becoming its link to Asian economies, US senior official to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Kurt Tong said.
"We’re not talking about [a bilateral trade pact with the Philippines] right now. We just have our hands full with ... the TPP," Mr. Tong told BusinessWorld at the sidelines of a lecture at the Asian Institute of Management, referring to the planned eight-country deal.
Negotiations currently include the US, Australia, Peru and Vietnam after the core group formed by Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand and Chile was expanded last March. A third round of talks is slated next month in Brunei in a bid to forge a "high-quality comprehensive 21st century free trade agreement (FTA)".
"And we’re not currently considering a US-ASEAN FTA," Mr. Tong added, noting sensitivities with one of the bloc’s members, military-ruled Myanmar.
"The nations of the [ASEAN] that are currently participating in the TPP anyway are the ones who have identified themselves as partners who are ready for participation in an FTA with the US," he said.
As such, the Philippines would do well to study whether it should join in the TPP talks instead, Mr. Tong added.
"What we’re focused on right now is the successful conclusion of the TPP. Because the US is the member of the TPP and other Southeast Asian nations are part of the TPP, that’s one potential avenue [for a deal with the Philippines]," he said.
"The Philippines can take a look at TPP and benchmark against that. We’ll be very interested to know the answer."
Sought for comment, Trade Undersecretary Adrian J. Cristobal, Jr. said the department was now studying new deals on top of existing pacts.
"[We are] reviewing all current trade agreements and studying potential new ones. Extensive consultations will also be conducted with relevant sectors," Mr. Cristobal said in a text message.
Trade department officials have told reporters the Philippines may need to join the TPP talks and forge other deals with major trading partners to keep up with its neighbors.
The US is the Philippines’ second largest export market so far this year after China and Hong Kong. Export sales to the US as of July accounted for 16.32% or $4.606 billion of the $28.223-billion total.