The Philippines remains interested in forging free trade agreements with the United States and different European countries, a government official said Monday.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez that while the Philippines adopted multilateral agreements such as the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, it seeks to have bilateral deals that will strengthen diplomatic and trade partnerships with individual countries.
“We are right now in talks with partners like Korea and trying to start this process with other countries. We just also closed an FTA with the EFTA countries. Hopefully we’d like to push FTA with the US, as well as the EU,” Lopez said during the virtual meeting “Asia’s Future: A Vision from Within”.
He cited benefits from a bilateral agreement for certain commodities or certain areas of cooperation that may not as easily agreed upon in a multilateral agreement.
“We’re opening up our economy in the same way that we would like also to have increased market access for our country to the benefit from all these FTAs that we perceived and should be mutually beneficial arrangements. We have to pursue both multilaterals which are definitely very important, but bilateral also are similarly important, as well,” Lopez said.
He said the conclusion of the RCEP took eight years, as “the drive to push through was there.”
Lopez said the Philippines was banking on areas where it has the most advantage like export of goods and services. He highlighted the strength of electronics exports and the information technology and business process management sector in the services field.
Lopez said it would be mutually beneficial for the Philippines and its partners to strengthen their relationships on these two sectors.
Healthcare and retirement are two new sectors that the Philippines and other countries may want to engage in as initial steps to having a full-blown trade agreement, he said.
“We’re really much embedded in the global supply chain, as we saw in the pandemic. The RCEP provides for actually 50 percent of our exports to the RCEP countries, and we source to 68 percent of our imports from RCEP countries, a proof on how important the global supply chain is. And that is where we see we have to continue and pursue this process of multilateral unity and trade order. And certainly, the ITBPM sector would be one in participating in the deals and they’re already included in some of these agreements,” he said.