The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ACCP) seemed to have taken the cudgels for the Philippine government by pushing for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States.
“We want to call attention to the Philippines in a fair and balance way. But it’s up to Filipinos to deal with those issues [that are related to the FTA], not us,” John Maisto, president of the US-Philippines Society, said in a news conference on Tuesday.
Earlier, John Forbes, ACCP senior adviser, said they will revive their proposal for a bilateral FTA between Manila and Washington.
Forbes added that this is an opportune time since US President Donald Trump is not interested in negotiating FTA deals on a regional basis, preferring bilateral FTA negotiations.
He noted that the US, Manila’s third-largest Philippine trading partner, has invested over $5 billion in the country.
Former US ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte suggested that Manila and Washington “try to sort out in [their]own minds the difference between what is the continuation of the rhetoric campaign in the past of President Rodrigo Duterte and what is going to become the real policy as we move into the future.”
“I think it’s too early to say and I think we need to have a understanding and a little bit of a wait-and-see attitude,” he said.
The Philippine government has a plateful of existing and ongoing FTA negotiations with the European Union and Russia.