The US and the Philippines plan to announce the start of a free trade negotiations by next month as the two allies look to bolster their economic relationship amid uncertainty over security ties. Once completed, the free trade agreement will be the US' second in Southeast Asia after the one with Singapore.
The move towards starting talks comes after both resolved issues around a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, including those related to e-commerce. The talks, which could last one to three years, are part of President Donald Trump's strategy to pursue bilateral rather than multilateral trade agreements to let Washington secure the best possible deal.
The US ranks among the Philippines' major trading partners. In 2017, bilateral trade totaled around $20 billion, with the US registering a $3.2 billion trade deficit, according to the Census Bureau. The Trump administration has been tough in trade negotiations, but Lopez is upbeat on a win-win deal. For the Philippines, a free trade agreement with the US would upgrade the current Generalised System of Preferences scheme wherein the U.S. reviews zero-tariff privileges given to more than 3,000 Philippine products every three years.