Aquino seeks Obama's help on Philippines' bid to join TPP

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III  sought US support on the Philippines' bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during his bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, November 18.

Aquino made the statement at a joint news conference with Obama at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel, as he announced that the two leaders welcomed continued stronger bilateral trade and investment ties.

"I conveyed the keen interest of the Philippines in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and we hope that the United States, as one of our most important economic partners, can assist us in the process,” Aquino said.

The 12-country TPP, spearheaded by the US and sealed on October 5, is a broad agreement to lower trade barriers and create uniform market standards among its members.

It would, in effect, create the world’s largest free trade area comprising 40% of the global economy.

In his statement, Obama said, "We welcome the Philippines’ interest in TPP and we have directed our Trade Ministers to have discussions about how TPP is going to be implemented among the original 12 countries and how we can work with the Philippines to follow through on their interest."

Asked about the opposition the TPP faces back in the US, Aquino said he recognizes the fact that both countries are holding elections next year; thus, the “pressure” to make “populist” statements at this time.

“At the end of the election period, there will be sobriety and the argument that not opening ourselves up to a bigger market and freer access to that bigger market cannot be made. Therefore, we think that once the elections are over, the current noise will die down and there will be new champions of increased free trade amongst all countries,” Aquino said.

The Philippines' trade and finance departments have earlier pushed for the country's inclusion in the deal to avoid losing the country's share of the US market to neighbors that are part of TPP.

However, restrictions in the Philippine Constitution, such as limits on foreign ownership of land and certain businesses, are seen to be hampering the country's bid.

Obama and the leaders of 11 TPP members – all fellow APEC member economies – are expected to meet on the trade deal in Manila on Wednesday, the White House earlier confirmed.

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) earlier said it would write leaders of TPP members to urge them to work on the ratification of the trade deal by their respective legislatures. (READ: Asia-Pacific business leaders urge TPP members to ratify deal)

Aside from the TPP, the two leaders discussed the  2nd Millennium Challenge Corporation. Aquino announced at the joint press conference with Obama that the Philippines was deemed “eligible” for a 2nd MCC Compact.

The MCC is an independent U.S. Government foreign aid agency that aims to fight global poverty. It is based on the "principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance" and economic progress. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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