Trump welcomes free trade with PH – Lopez

US President Donald Trump has welcomed the suggestion of the Philippine government to have a free trade agreement between the Philippines and the US, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters.

In a text message, Lopez said the Philippines was able to raise to Trump and his delegation that the two countries can further boost trade with an FTA.

“We enjoy a little trade surplus and we acknowledged US support via GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) and the recent inclusion of travel goods [in the GSP],” said Lopez.

The DTI chief was also in the room during the bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Trump here Monday on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.

“And that we wish to elevate the trade arrangements to start exploring the FTA with US,” Lopez added.

“President Trump welcomed the suggestion and said they will consider exploratory talks on FTA,” he said.

Philippine Statistics Authority data showed that two-way trade between the Philippines and the US in January to September 2017 reached USD12.18 billion.

Philippine exports to the US in the third quarter this year rose 5.2 percent to USD7.04 billion from USD6.68 billion in 2016, making the US the country’s second largest export destination next to Japan.

Inward shipment of US products to the country, on the other hand, declined by 7.3 percent to USD5.15 billion in the first nine months of the year from USD5.55 billion in the same period of 2016.

The US is the Philippines’ fourth largest import source during the January to September 2017 period.(PNA)