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PH moves closer in joining Trans-Pacific

The Philippines is in talks to join Trans-Pacific Partnership, after its member-countries agreed on a trade pact that will redefine global trade.

The Trade Department said it would pursue six more technical consultations with member-countries of the TPP, in anticipation of the imminent signing of the trade pact among the first 12 member-countries and the subsequent opening of the group to new member-applicants.

TPP’s trade pact includes provisions to lower barriers to trade in services and remove foreign investment barriers, in addition to lowering tariffs on goods trade.  It also has provisions setting common minimum standards on labor markets and environmental protections as well as international dispute resolution regimes.

Trade undersecretary for international policy Adrian Cristobal said the Philippine government would initiate the technical discussions with Japan, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam.

“The talks, generally, with all of them will continue, while this agreement [TPP] is going through. This is a required exercise. All 12 members have been supportive of our desire to join [the TPP],” he said in an interview.

Among the areas where the Philippines will focus on technical discussions with TPP are government procurement, investor-state dispute settlement and intellectual property.

The Philippines already started technical discussions with Malaysia, Australia, the US, New Zealand, Mexico and Canada.

Cristobal said while the Trade Department expected a temporary suspension in the flow of talks due to election, there would be no backsliding nor disruption in the process “since we have professional career civil servants sitting in the negotiation panel.”

He said the Philippines was looking forward to the signing of the agreement as this would provide access to text on chapters and provisions that might prove useful for the Philippines to better comprehend issues, challenges as well as benefits of being a TPP partner.

“We will do better evaluation of what needs to be done when there’s a text available. Right now our aim is to go through the process of having technical agreements with each member of the TPP,” said Cristobal.

The Philippines continues to address the required economic reforms prescribed to qualify for TPP membership such as improvements on the intellectual property rights, Philippine government procurement system and investor protection.

TPP is a trade agreement that the US is negotiating with 11 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The trade scheme will offer opportunities for the US and Asia-Pacific countries to deepen access to some of the growing markets in the world.

TPP covers 12 countries, including Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile.

The terms of the agreement must now be ratified by member-state legislatures before coming into effect.

“Should the TPP be ratified, the most significant consequence will be in setting the rules and guidelines under which economic integration deepens around much of the Pacific Rim. This will, in turn, set a powerful precedent for other global trade and investment protocols,” Fitch Ratings said.

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