MANILA — The ongoing trade war between the United States and China, which erupted last week, will affect the Philippine economy to some extent, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, however, said that concerned government agencies including the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Finance (DOF) are studying the matter “thoroughly.”
“I know that both DTI and DOF are studying the matter very thoroughly, identifying where we are vulnerable given the kind of export products that we have, assessing if some of our biggest exports to both the U.S. and China will be affected. Take note that the tariff will be for goods originating from China and the United States,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.
“Now, there are some products that we export to China which in turn are further re-exported to China. So in that sense there will be some effect on us but we are of course studying and preparing for eventualities,” he added.
Not a knee-jerk reaction
Roque, meanwhile, said that discussions on the possible free trade agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and the U.S. were not “fast-tracked” as a response to the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.
“I don’t think it’s really a directive to fast-track. It’s just that it’s something that has always been there. It’s something that we demanded,” Roque said.
“In fact, early on, if the U.S. was offering it to countries like Vietnam which at some point was their enemy, why couldn’t they offer the same to us given that we have always been their friend. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction to the trade war,” he added.
Roque, meanwhile, expressed hope that the World Trade Organization (WTO), which operates a global system of trade rules, would be able to put a “settlement” on the ongoing trade war.
“We’re hoping, of course, that the trade regime under the WTO will be made to prevail because all this tariff war actually is subject to arbitration before the WTO dispute settlement procedure,” Roque said.
DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez earlier said that the government, under the Duterte administration, is committed to promoting “open markets and free trade.”
He said that the trade spat between the two economic giants “would benefit the Philippines only in the short term” but would “lead to negative repercussions felt by economies across the globe if the feud worsens.”
PH-US free trade deal
Roque expressed hope that both the Philippines and the U.S. should be in the position of “equality” if a possible free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries takes place.
Roque made this remark following the DOF’s announcement that senior Philippine and United States officials have recently discussed the possibility of pursuing an FTA between the two allies.
“We want to be in the position of equality. That we will not just be a market for US goods, that we will also be able to export our goods to the United States,” Roque said.
Roque, however pointed out that he did not have any details on the discussion between Philippine and US officials.
“They haven’t discussed the free trade deal yet so it’s just a possible free trade deal. I know that there’s a possibility that there will be a free trade agreement but I don’t know the details yet,” Roque said in a briefing.
According to the DOF, the discussions were led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III with Jeffrey Gerrish, the US Deputy Trade Representative for Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Industrial Competitiveness.
The discussions centered on America’s interest in initiating “informal preparatory meetings” with the Philippines on the “scope, timing and process” leading to an FTA between Manila and Washington.
This comes after an earlier dialogue between Duterte and President Donald Trump in November last year in Manila, where they discussed ways of further strengthening Philippine-U.S. bilateral trade ties. (PNA)
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