MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he is not keen on having the Philippines join the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade deal.
In a speech before his departure for Cambodia, Duterte said the 12-nation trade pact would not be beneficial for the Philippines as it will supposedly affect the country’s access to affordable medicines.
“Kung sumunod tayo sa TPP, of which I think we are not qualified… ang pinaka example ko lang dyan sa TPP is mawala ang generic (medicines),” Duterte said.
(If we ratify TPP, of which I think we are not qualified… the best example of its implication would be that we will lose access to generic medicines.)
“It would be again a day ruled by the rich multinationals.”
Duterte said it was right for US President-elect Donald Trump to dump the trade deal.
“I’m gald that Trump said he will throw to the garbage can ang TPP because it will create problems for us here in Asia,” he said.
Duterte’s latest pronouncement is contrary to the statements of his Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
At the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic ministers meetings in Vientiane last August, Lopez said Philippines was eager to join the TPP.
In an interview with Reuters, Lopez said the key industries which would benefit would be electronics, automotives and garments.
"If you don't take part in it, you might lose some opportunities while other countries are enjoying them. We'd like to be part of that," Lopez said.
"The new government is one that will keep the policy of maximizing FTA (foreign trade agreements) participation. We're close to the U.S. and we've had talks at an informal level."
It will be a boon in particular for lower cost, manufacturing-led economies, with the prospect of sharp tariff cuts to markets like the United States already luring factory investments to TPP members.
TRUMP THUMBS DOWN TPP
Outgoing US President Barack Obama championed the 12-nation deal saying it would enable the US to set the global trade agenda in the face of China's increasing economic clout.
But Trump has strongly opposed the agreement, saying it would be bad for America and cost jobs, casting a huge shadow over its future.
Last month, Japan's leader said the TPP would be "meaningless" without the US.
The US and Japan are the biggest members of the massive deal, which encompasses some 40 percent of the global economy. It also includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The deal, which has been years in the making, cannot be implemented in its current form without US ratification.
The TPP is seen as a counterweight to China, as Beijing expands its sphere of influence and promotes its own way of doing business -- seen as often running counter to largely Western-set global standards that emphasize transparency and respect for human rights and the environment.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made the TPP a pillar of his growth platform to revive exports and the world's number three economy.
But experts say that with Trump's election, the deal is a non-starter.
Trump says he is in favor of free trade but that existing deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, have not been fairly negotiated and do not serve US interests.
The White House has warned that failure to approve TPP would put billions of dollars in US exports at risk to competition from China. – with AFP and Reuters