Manila Bulletin | October 24, 2011
’Save Act’ Skips Obama’s FTAs
MANILA, Philippines — President Barack Obama on Friday signed three, and possibly the last of his administration, free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, but skipped the Philippines proposed “Save Our Industries Act,” which the Aquino administration hoped to become a rider in one of these trade bills.
“No, Save Act was not included as one of the riders to any of the free trade acts,” confirmed Adrian S. Cristobal Jr., Trade and Industry undersecretary for international trade, in a text message.
Cristobal, however, remained hopeful that the “Save Act,” which aims to revive the garment and textile industries of both the Philippines and the US through zero or preferential tariff arrangement, would still be tackled along with the other minor trade bills still pending in the US Congress.
“We will monitor political developments closely in Washington D.C. Let’s see,” he said. When if he was disappointed over Washington’s treatment of the “Save Act”, Cristobal said, “The government and the private sectors are hopeful of the bill’s passage this year.”
The Philippine government was hopeful of “Save Act” passage as a rider in to any of the three FTA bills of Colombia, Panama and South Korea after Obama certified the three bills as urgent.
While still hopeful it would be passed this year, he said, the government and the garments sector will focus on building up industry competitiveness and diversifying markets.
“We are working on attracting companies that are looking for alternatives to China to establish a production base here. We will intensify programs to enhance the value of garments through efficiency, innovations and creative design,” he said. Garment is still one of the countrys’ top exports.
The three FTAs, which took years in the making, which were believed to be worth billions of dollars to American exporters and tens of thousands of new jobs to Americans, have brought to 20 countries that have free trade deals with the US.
Once passed, the proposed “Save Act” would pave the way for the export of Philippine-made garments that used US fabric and yarns to enter into the US market duty-free or with preferential duty treatment.
As such, the bill seeks to revive the garment and textile industry of both the US and the Philippines. It will also mean creation of more jobs for the industry, which could no longer compete with the low-cost garment producing countries such as China, Cambodia and Laos.
The low cost producing countries had reduced both the US and Philippine garment and textile industries to being tagged as sunset industries.
The Philippine garments industry now employs only 150,000 while the garment sales to the US have fallen by 50 percent in the last five years.
Already, the government has spent huge money, time and efforts to ensure the passage of the bill. Aside from a strong lobby at the US Congress, the DTI even held a musical show in cooperation with ABS-CBN for broadcast at the FTSC website in the US. (BCM)