PHL, Chile form panel to explore areas of possible trade cooperation

REUTERS

THE PHILIPPINES has agreed to explore areas of possible economic cooperation with Chile, raising the possibility of a first formal South American trade and investment arrangement.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo signed a memorandum of understanding to create a joint economic commission (JEC) on March 30 with Chile’s Vice Minister for Trade at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Rodrigo Yanez Benitez. They plan to set an initial meeting within the year.

“The JEC will serve as a confidence-building measure to further intensify the bilateral economic linkages while addressing the challenges posed by geographic distance and generally low levels of awareness by businesses in each other’s markets,” Mr. Rodolfo said in a statement on Tuesday.

The two trade officials also spoke about their potential accession to regional trade deals.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that Mr. Yanez supported the Philippines’ interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, adding that Chile is in the process of ratifying the agreement in its legislature.

The department has started informal talks with members of the transpacific trade deal as part of the process of indicating interest in joining the agreement.

In turn, Mr. Rodolfo conveyed on behalf of Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez Philippine support for Chile’s interest in acceding to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.

Mr. Lopez had proposed the creation of a JEC in 2018, the DTI said, “as a framework for engagement, emphasizing that this will serve as a building block towards enhanced relations.”

Philippine Ambassador to Chile Teresita C. Daza said through the JEC, the economies will be able to identify sectors for potential cooperation.

“This initiative comes at a time when our countries are facing serious challenges across different fronts and with varying intensities because of, and exacerbated by, the COVID pandemic that is far from over,” she said.

Chile was the Philippines’ 52nd biggest export destination and 52nd largest source of imports last year, the DTI said, adding that the Philippines approved no investments from Chile in the decade leading up to 2020. — Jenina P. Ibanez