‘Philippines-US free-trade deal likely next year’

President of the United States of America and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte during the 31st ASEAN GALA Dinner. Photo by Russell Palma

The Philippines is next in line on sealing a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, the world’s largest economy.

Ebb Hinchliffe, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham), told the Philippine media late last week that US Trade Representatives would look at sealing an FTA with the Philippines ahead of planned trade agreements with the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

He said, however, that Washington is just waiting for US lawmakers’ green light of the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Trade Agreement.

Hinchliffe said that Washington is not keen on accommodating new FTAs until the USMCA Trade Deal is signed.

“I would confidently state there will be free trade agreement between the US and the Philippines coming,” he said. “I hope it would be some time in 2020, but it could be as late as 2021.”

“When they start the negotiations, it will take a couple of years. But the trade agreement between the US and the Philippines will not take a long time. We are common partners, we know each other very well, we know our needs and wants very well,” he added.

Hinchliffe said that once trade talks begin, signing of the FTA will “not take a very long time.” 

AmCham said it will continue to push for Washington’s FTA with the Philippines as it strongly believes in the big advantage of the trade deal.

Data from the US Trade showed that the Philippines is currently its 31st largest trading partner, with $21.3 billion in total goods trade as of 2018.

Goods exports totaled to $8.7 billion while goods imports amounted to $12.6 billion. The Philippines is the US’ 32nd largest export market in 2018 and its 29th largest importer in the same year.

The U.S. goods trade deficit with the Philippines was $3.9 billion in 2018, an increase of 22.5 percent from the $3.18 billion registered in 2017.

The Philippines, represented by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin,held a closed-door meeting with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo in March this year to discuss the two countries’ various security, cultural, and economic concerns as well as the potential FTA.