Purisima pushes Asean membership in TPP
(The Philippine Star) - November 22, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As Southeast Asia draws near to its integration next year, the country’s finance chief has renewed calls to allow the entire region – and not just some countries – to join the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“That’s moot already, but TPP members can actually tell Asean that it would like to invite it in the next round,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told The STAR in an interview.

Four of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are already members of the TPP, the hallmark of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” policy by establishing a Pacific-wide trade agreement.

They are Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. Purisima reiterated the Philippines remains interested in joining the TPP, but added that letting the whole Asean bloc in would make the agreement “better.”

Last month, the US finished TPP negotiations with 11 countries, which will benefit from freer flow of goods and services through the dismantling of tariffs and non-tariff barriers. The TPP members account for almost a third of the global economy.

US President Barack Obama, in a briefing after his bilateral talks with President Aquino last Wednesday, said his country would help the Philippines meet the requirements of TPP that include allowing more foreign participation in the economy.

For Purisima, making the entire Asean part of the TPP will make the pact more inclusive. He cited the potential disadvantage the country will have against Malaysia and Vietnam once the TPP commences.

“In the case of our garments industry…, if the tariffs drop immediately to zero, then we have serious issues with our garment industry (against) Vietnam and Malaysia. Those countries may have points of advantage to us,” he explained.

“When you have an agreement where four are included and the rest are excluded, at some point, it creates potential friction,” Purisima pointed out.

Such conflict may turn unhealthy amid the Asean integration, the finance chief said, but he added he remains confident the 10-member bloc will succeed as a one market.

“We like to talk to the participants so that the TPP does not become a stumbling block towards a smoother integration of Asean,” Purisima said.

As to the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), he said the grouping could serve as a “catalyst” for the Philippines toward becoming a TPP member later on.

 

 

ACIRC AS SOUTHEAST ASIA ASEAN ASIA-PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS BRUNEI DARUSSALAM FINANCE SECRETARY CESAR PURISIMA FOR PURISIMA MALAYSIA AND VIETNAM PURISIMA TPP
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