US, Philippines Start TIFA Discussion

Article excerpt

American companies have expressed keen interest on the government's policies on the auto sector, intellectual property rights protection, ICT and the country's opportunities in the region as both US-Philippine government's are undertaking bilateral talks on the US-Philippines Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

These issues were raised by senior executives from 11 American multinational corporations doing business in the region during a meeting with President Gloria Arroyo in a recent business mission led by the US-ASEAN Business Council.

"In today's global economic climate the breadth of the mission and range of sectors involved send a clear message on the continued commitment of the American business community to growth and development in the Philippines," said US-ASEAN Business Council vice-president William Marmon.

The TIFA provides the two sides with a forum to identify, raise and resolve matters that might otherwise hinder the development of bilateral trade and investment ties.

The TIFA also provides a framework for the future negotiations of a bilateral free trade agreement.

To date, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand have signed a TIFA with the United States, leaving Malaysia as the only major ASEAN country not to have signed a TIFA.

By design, TIFA discussions are wide-ranging and provide an important foundation of common understanding and objectives for formal negotiation of a bilateral FTA with the United States.

It was unclear though if the Philippines would insist on its earlier proposal for a preferential trade arrangement with the US on its garment exports in the upcoming TIFA review.

The private garment sector had pushed for a free trade agreement on garment initially but this was rejected by the Bush administration in favor of a comprehensive FTA scheme.

The Philippine delegation to the TIFA review also included officials from the Confederation of Garment Exporters of the Philippines.

The most significant recent memorandum of understanding signed by the U.S. and the Philippines under the ambit of the TIFA was in September 2006 when both parties agreed to cooperate on stopping illegal transshipments of textiles and apparel through the Philippines to the United States.

The recent US-business mission provided a timely opportunity for American executives to engage government and business leaders on a number of issues affecting the local business climate and global competitiveness of the Philippines, Marmon said. …