Roxas: No to 'dead' TPP trade deal
MANILA, Philippines – From his earlier cautious stance when asked whether the Philippines should join the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Liberal Party presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II now has a more definitive answer.
"For TPP as it stands right now, no, I would not be in favor of it because it will kill our agriculture sector," he said at a forum hosted by the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines on Wednesday, March 30.
When asked the same question 4 months ago, Roxas expressed reservations on the US-led broad agreement that would lower trade barriers and create uniform market standards among its members.
He said then that the Philippines' agricultural sector might not be able to compete with more developed countries that are part of the TPP.
In the Wednesday dialogue with Filipino businessmen, Roxas noted that several members of the TPP, such as Singapore and Brunei, do not have agriculture sectors to protect, compared to the Philippines where 33% of Filipinos depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
While he acknowledged that rice-producing country Vietnam is a member of the TPP, he pointed out that Vietnam has the Mekong River Delta as its irrigation field, while the Philippines has to build its irrigation system.
"So their rice is cheaper to produce than our rice," he said.
Roxas also pointed out that the "political reality" was that the TPP is no longer a viable trade agreement, after talks among the 12 member-countries broke down over disagreements on access to various sectors, such as farming, automotive, and the sugar and dairy markets.
"Here's the political reality for any of you who've been following CNN, BBC: TPP is dead. There is no single American presidential candidate that is backing TPP today," he said.
"I think that the way the dynamics are going in the US today, the chances for TPP are slim to none," he added.
Roxas, who has an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Economics, also said that he supports international trade agreements if they are fair for Philippine markets.
"I think international trade agreements are good because [they broaden] our market, [give] us access. However, they must be fair. They must give us the same opportunity to access their market as they have an opportunity to access ours," he said.
"The other countries intend to sell to us. We must be very clear what we intend to sell to them, and is it viable? Because if not, lugi tayo (we will be on the losing end)," he added.
Roxas' stance on the TPP contrasts with that of President Benigno Aquino III, who in November 2015 sought the help of US President Barack Obama in the Philippines' bid to join the deal. – Rappler.com
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