For Washington, Lopez agreed that this was not the best time to take a big step forward in possible trade negotiations with the current attitude of the U.S. Congress toward Philippine officials. The Philippines has been largely untouched by the damage of the trade war between the United States and China, and Manila hopes the country will be targeted by Asian companies seeking better access to the U.S. market. “Any discussion in this regard will indeed be a major step forward and will also be isolated from the trade tensions between these two major popular economies,” Lopez said. The idea of a free trade agreement between the Philippines and the United States has been debated since the end of the preferential trade status of the Philippines in the United States, as part of the transitional arrangements between colonial rule and total independence. These discussions have never gained strength, not least because the Philippines has taken a cautious approach to a free trade agreement and has never negotiated a Saa outside the ASEAN framework. He was pleased to use the Generalized Preference System (USPG), which provided duty-free treatment for approximately 5,000 inch lines with minimum reciprocal concessions. The United States, on the other hand, has been more inclined to pursue its trade objectives through the WTO and in regional trade agreements. In October 2018, Lopez and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that bilateral trade issues between the two countries had been resolved under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Lopez, however, said a trade deal with the United States, Manila`s former colonial power, will not damage relations with Beijing.
“We have pursued this policy that [the] Philippines are friends with everyone and are not hostile to anyone,” Lopez said. Under Trump, the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment agreement and unbundled the North American free trade agreement through separate negotiations with Canada and Mexico. The recent deal with Ottawa is widely seen as a victory for Trump, who wants to start future trade talks with Japan. Despite the rhetoric, President Trump`s United States still needs to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement to complement the current 20. In fact, he had some of them checked, including the one with South Korea. It is therefore surprising that President Trump, during a visit to the Philippines in November 2017, announced that he and President Duterte had agreed to negotiate a free trade agreement. Given the current global trading environment – increasing protectionism and the trade war between the United States and China – it would appear that the Philippines would benefit from such an agreement by giving it a competitive footing with its competitors.