Thursday, March 21, 2013


If you want it, you’ve got to work for it – that seemed to be the challenge hurled by acting United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis to the Philippines and other countries that have expressed the desire to join the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“Whether it’s China, whether it’s the Philippines, whether it’s Thailand, whether it’s Taiwan, it’s incumbent upon those economies to be able to convince the other TPP partners that they are capable of meeting the high standards that we’re negotiating,” he stressed at a press briefing yesterday (March 20) at the Foreign Press Center in Washington DC.

The Philippines’ top envoy in Washington revealed the country’s “road map” to gaining a coveted seat in the TPP which will virtually eliminate tariffs and other trade impediments among the partner nations.

TPP currently has 11 “partner nations” – Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Peru, the United States, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada and Mexico. The 16th round of negotiations was held in Singapore last week.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. said the Philippine plan is anchored on three broad pillars of “stakeholder engagement in trade policy-making; trade policy research network and capacity-building; and enhanced interagency cooperation."

Marantis said the Philippines and other aspirants have to “demonstrate a willingness to meet the high standards that we’re negotiating in the TPP agreement."

For the Philippines, that would mean amending the 1987 Constitution to fully open the country to foreign investors, legislating improved labor protection laws and further curbing intellectual property piracy, among others. (Kindly see previous posts)

“One of the key challenges that we face,” Marantis explained, “is ensuring that our exporters and our workers and our manufacturers and our service providers are able to compete on a level playing field."

Although many of President Aquino’s key economic managers and advisers are keen on the TPP, he has been described as “waffling” on the benefits of joining the trade pact which many see as a springboard for larger economic collaboration in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We are not being invited yet. If we get invited, there are certain qualifications that must be done. The process is long,” the President said, referring to key structural and legal reforms needed for joining the TPP.

“The United States and the TPP, our partners don’t invite countries or economies to join – it’s the reverse,” Marantis averred.

“If an economy is interested in meeting the high standards of the TPP agreement, it needs to express that interest; that it’s capable of meeting the high standards that we’re negotiating."

“And the 11 TPP partners then decide by consensus whether or not to admit a new member.  That’s the process that was used with Malaysia when Malaysia decided to join, and that’s the process that was used with Canada and Mexico when they decided they wanted to join last year, and that’s the process that’s underway with Japan,” Marantis explained.

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