PH wants to kickstart free trade talks with US, says DTI chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) — The Philippines is reviving its plan to start free trade negotiations with the United States in sync with the expected renewal of duty-free privileges for Filipino-made goods, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Thursday night.

“We’ve been wanting really to start the discussion because as you know right now, it’s the Philippines enjoying really good GSP [Generalized System of Preferences] program with the United States," Lopez said during the virtual briefing of economic managers with the Philippine Embassy in Washington, the U.S. Department of State, and some American investors.

"Certainly, it’s a good program that’s been a big help to marginalized sectors in the country,” he added.

Despite being one of the Philippines' top trading partners, Washington has no existing bilateral trade pact with Manila.

But Philippine exports to the U.S. used to enjoy duty-free treatment under the so-called Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) until the privileges expired in December 2020.

Lopez said he expects the renewal to be sealed within this year and elevate it to a wider free trade agreement (FTA) "so that it becomes a more longer lasting kind of trade arrangement."

The DTI chief noted that such agreement will further give a boost to Philippine products like canned tuna, seaweed and coconut.

The U.S.-Philippines bilateral relations soured in the early days of the Duterte administration amid tirades over Duterte’s drug war and cozying up with Beijing.

But in the last throes of Duterte’s term, Manila and Washington ties improved with Duterte extending the Visiting Forces Agreement.

CNN Philippines' Lois Calderon contributed to this report.