Manila Times | Thursday, May 18, 2006
New US, Asean trade framework ready soon
By Angelo S. Samonte, Reporter
THE United States Trade Representative Office (USTR) said a trade and investment framework agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would be concluded soon.
“The US is committed to Asean and one of its major interests is to intensify unilateral as well as regional trade,” Barbara Weisel, the assistant USTR for Asia-Pacific and Pharmaceutical Policy, said, adding that the TIFA is expected to help Asean integration.
For the Philippines, the TIFA would allow for further dialogues with the US on a wide range of areas, Weisel said.
“We are focusing on the Asean single window and we are working to accelerate the process in the region,” she said.
While the US has already concluded free trade agreements (FTAs) with some Asean member-states, Weisel said the TIFA is not an initial or necessary step toward forging an FTA. Also, the US will not require the Philippines to have it if it works for an FTA, she said.
“TIFAs are just [a] mechanism to address issues but not necessary for starting an FTA negotiations. It is also used to resolve issues such as APEC [Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation] matters and support integration. But primarily it is aimed at increasing understanding,” Weisel said.
She said the Philippine government must work to make the local business environment competitive after other Asean member-states concluded FTAs with the US.
Weisel, however, dashed hopes of the US giving preferential treatment to Philippine-made garment and textile, despite efforts by Mala-cañang and the local garments makers to push for the said arrangement.
She said both parties have been discussing other options to make Philippine garments competitive in the US market.
Weisel also expressed elation over the Philippines’ achievements in combating piracy and intellectual property rights infringement.
“The US government is optimistic that the Philippines could eventually solve these problems. It must focus on wider areas across the border and intensify antipiracy initiatives,” she said.