Zoellick & Arroyo to Meet Today on RP-US Concerns

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Byline: FERDIE J. MAGLALANG

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will meet today with US Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick to discuss economic, political, and security issues affecting bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States.

The President is scheduled to receive Zoellick at Malacanang this morning as part of his regional tour of several countries in Southeast Asia. Zoellick arrived in the country last night. He is expected to leave tonight after his official activities in Manila.

Zoellick is the first and most senior US official to visit the country under the second term of the administration of President George W. Bush. His visit is considered important because the country remains a key investment destination of American businessmen.

His visit will also be highlighted by an observance of a historical event, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

This is, however, the third time that Zoellick is making an official visit to the country. The first was when he was undersecretary of the State Department in 1992, and the second was as US Trade Representative on Nov. 19, 2002.

According to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Mrs. Arroyo and Zoellick will discuss free trade, counter-terrorism, and maritime security under the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative.

It may be recalled that the US government is concerned over the activities of the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian wing of the Al-Qaeda terror network, as well as the Abu Sayaff kidnap-for-ransom group in the country.

Zoellick has served as the 13th US Trade Representative since 2001 and has served with Secretary of State James A. Baker III as undersecretary of state for economic and agricultural affairs as well as counselor to the department.

He had close links with the Southeast Asian region during his tenure as US Trade Representative before he was named by Bush as number two top US diplomat. …