PH seeks duty-free rights in US

PBBM urges renewal of country’s inclusion in ‘preferential‘ trade program

Washington D.C.—President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) called for the renewal of the Philippines’ participation in the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade program, which allowed the duty-free entry of several Philippine products into the United States.

The country’s eligibility for the US GSP program expired on Dec. 31, 2020.

“We would like to request reauthorization… to boost trade and to make US products that are made in the Philippines more competitive,” Mr. Marcos said in a speech at a forum organized by the US-ASEAN BusinessCouncil and at a US Chamber of Commerce roundtable and reception at the Blair House in Washington DC.

AT AMERICA’S MOST HALLOWED GROUND. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. leads a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on the last day of the official visit in the US.

The program, he said, would increase trade with the US and promote competition.

Aside from strengthening trade relations between the two countries, the President also called on US companies to invest more in the Philippines as the country has stepped up efforts to “create an atmosphere that is attractive to potential investors.”

He told American business executives that the Philippine economy grew 7.6 percent last year.

“This is the effect of our very aggressive efforts really to promote the Philippines as an investment destination,” Marcos said.

“We will never, at any point, say we got it perfected. We will continue to listen to you and to all our other partners as to what else we can do to help transform our economy and, in that way, to be able to play a viable part in the security and defense issues that are the challenges of the day and of the region.”

He noted that the US-Philippines alliance is in the “front and center right now,” overcoming “some bumps and scrapes” over the past years.

“But now, security and defense are top of mind… we also have to see that because our economies and our societies have grown more complex, everything… hinges on everything else and… it is very hard for us to separate and say that this is a discreet sector that does not affect any other sector,” he said.

Marcos also highlighted the government’s efforts to advance the digital transformation of the Philippines, particularly supporting the “smart industry readiness” of several semiconductor and electronics manufacturing services companies “to help them craft their digital transformation road maps.”

He also told the American business leaders that Philippines has succeeded in streamlining the process for permits to ensure ease of doing business as he assured them that his administration is working hard to address red tape and the digitalization of bureaucratic processes.

“They have done a very good job. They have reduced some of the permitting procedures from different industries from several months to a just few days,” he said.

“I am really confident that if its continued, if it can continue its work and if it is well supported by legislation, by the bureaucratic procedures, we can cut down many of those unnecessary regulatory documentary requirements,” he added.

The President said the country is also optimistic about the future increase in exports of solar and photovoltaic-related products from the Philippines as many countries strive to comply with their decarbonization targets.

He noted that with the trend toward electric vehicles, Philippine exports geared towards electric vehicle use, such as wire harnesses, rubber tires, and automotive electronics have good potential.

The semiconductor industry, on the other hand, can gain more from increasing skills in research and development, he said.

The President also assured American business leaders that the Philippines will “transform” and not just recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I do not use the word recovery, I use the word transformation. Because we are not trying to recover to where we used to be. We are trying to transform ourselves to be part of the modern world,” Mr. Marcos said.

“Now, that transformation I think will occur and is a grand opportunity that we have been given. Now we do not start from a blank sheet of paper but it’s close [to that]. There are many new sectors that did not exist before. There are businesses that did not exist before that will be very dominant in the very near future,” the President added.

President Marcos said he does not want the Philippines to be back where it was in mid-2019, right before the pandemic hit.

“I want to be somewhere else. I want to be in the middle of the new economy, number one. I think that is important,” he said.

Present at the forum were top American businessmen and Filipino tycoons, among them Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Enrique Razon, Tessie Sy-Coson, and Kevin Tan.

HIGH-LEVEL MEETINGS. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. meets with members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Sen. Robert Menendez (3rd from right) to discuss various issues such as agriculture, defense, security, cyber security, climate change, and economic development.

Also on Wednesday, the President met with members of the US Senate to discuss a wide range of issues that include security, defense, agriculture, and climate change mitigation, economic cooperation and cybersecurity.

In his remarks, President Marcos thanked Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and other members of the panel for welcoming his delegation to Capitol Hill for the frank and productive discussions on the state of Philippines-US relations.

Having been a member of the Philippine House of Representatives andthe Senate, Marcos said engagements between Manila and Washington should not only take place at the executive but also with members of the legislature.

Marcos noted that defense and security engagement remains the key pillar of Philippines-US bilateral relations. He hailed the US’ willingness to work with the Philippine government “as an equal, sovereign partner.”

The President also expressed the Philippines’ intention to deepen cooperation with the US in the areas of supply chain, health and health security, environment, energy security, and interconnectivity.

The meeting was part of the President’s official visit to Washington, and follows a series of high-level dialogues with US President Joseph Biden and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

Joining the President in the Wednesday Capitol Hill meeting were Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla, and Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual.

Speaker Romualdez said the House is ready to take up the challenge of strengthening the long-standing relations between the Philippines and the United States through engagements of lawmakers of both countries.

“We, at the House of Representatives, welcome the suggestion of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. that efforts to boost the long-standing bond of friendship between the Philippines and the United States should also involve the respective legislative branches of the two countries,” Romualdez said.

“We are ready to take up that challenge and we look forward to more engagements with our counterparts in the United States in the future,” he added.

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