The Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) agreed to collaborate on developing cold chain facilities in the Philippines, with the assistance of the U.S. Agency for International Aid (USAID) and Philippine companies.
This was one of the agreements arrived at the conclusion of the meeting between the Philippines and the U.S. on August 31, 2018 in Singapore, and after DTI and USTR agreed to resolve a number of recurring bilateral trade issues under the two countries’ Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) mechanism.
In a joint statement, the Philippines and US agreed to enhance their economic relationship by resolving drawn-out bilateral trade issues, particularly in the area of market access for their agricultural products.
The Philippines-United States TIFA, concluded in 1989, provides strategic frameworks and principles for dialogue on trade and investment issues, and has served as an important vehicle in making measurable progress on a number of key issues.
DTI and USTR said both governments agree that enhanced bilateral engagement in trade under the TIFA should include work that benefits agricultural producers, importers, exporters, and consumers, adding that the two countries intend to work together in a number of areas.
Developing cold chain facilities
Specifically, the U.S. and the Philippines intend to collaborate on developing cold chain requirements and best practices in the Philippines, taking into account international guidelines and codes of practice regarding food hygiene adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to foods, food production, and food safety.
The statement noted that this work will build on private sector and local efforts already underway in the Philippines to improve the existing cold chain. The U.S. also agreed to help provide technical assistance to enhance cold chain development and management in the Philippines.
The U.S. also welcomed the Philippines’ efforts to ensure World Trade Organization-consistent valuation of agricultural imports for duty collection purposes, including the enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies prohibiting the use of reference pricing.
Tariff rate extension
The Philippines, for its part, recognized the interest of the U.S. to have the Philippines extend tariff rates on certain agricultural products so as to help stabilize the prices of food products. The Philippines committed to consider immediately the petitions to extend such rates, consistent with established procedural rules.
Further, the U.S. noted that the Philippines is continuing to protect geographical indications (GIs) in a way that benefits both countries by ensuring transparency, due process, and fairness in the laws, regulations, and practices that protect GIs, including by respecting prior trademark rights and not restricting the use of common names. GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or reputation that is due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating from a given place.
The U.S. also welcomed the commitment of the Philippines to further discuss ways to ensure that Philippine laws, regulations, and policies do not restrict or prohibit the entry of U.S. products into the Philippine market. The Philippines confirmed that it will not provide automatic GI protection, including to terms exchanged as part of a trade agreement.
The Philippines, meanwhile, welcomed the progress made on a number of agricultural trade issues related to access to the U.S. market for mango, young green coconuts, and carrageenan, as well as the expansion of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences Program to include travel goods.
Both governments pledged to cooperate in implementing a U.S. work program in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-United States TIFA on automotive standards issues. The U.S. recognized the Philippines’ commitment to the continued acceptance of vehicles that meet multiple high-standards for automotives, including the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Both governments also agreed to continue technical dialogue and policy discussions on the National Retail Payments System and other measures related to electronic payment services, including domestic retail debit and credit electronic payment transactions. The U.S. recognized the Philippines’ goal of increasing Filipino consumers’ use of electronic payments for domestic retail transactions and further welcomed its commitment to policies that permit cross-border supply of electronic payment services, as well as for not restricting the total number of service suppliers and not favoring any domestic suppliers over international suppliers.”
Both governments also agreed to a continued dialogue on priority issues of interest to both countries, including for the Philippines, discussions on seeking relief from U.S. safeguard measures on solar cells and Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.
DTI said the two sides will next discuss the steps for further deepening trade and investment relations.
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