Philippines pushes inclusion in US-Japan minerals deal

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
Philippines pushes inclusion in US-Japan minerals deal
Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is urging the US and Japan to include the Philippines in the existing critical minerals agreement of both countries.

During the recent Trilateral Economic Ministers Meeting, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual told reporters he proposed that the Philippines become part of the existing US-Japan critical minerals agreement, if it would be difficult to have a separate bilateral agreement with the US for such.

While no common agreement has been reached yet, Pascual said US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Minister Ken Saito of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are open to the proposal.

“If we have an agreement, our partners would have priority to get the supply,” Pascual said.

After Indonesia imposed a ban on the export of nickel ores, the DTI chief said the Philippines effectively became the only major producer of mineral ores being sold to the global market, particularly China.

He pointed out that China is able to get around 90 percent of the Philippines’ export of nickel ores, giving them a major hold on the nickel market, particularly the downstream products used for battery precursors and batteries.

“From a strategic standpoint, it would affect the supply needed by countries like Japan and eventually the US,” he said.

On the part of the Philippines, Pascual said a critical minerals deal would help the country attract US companies to invest in mineral processing.

“It is difficult to convince (investors) if we don’t have this kind of agreement,” he said, noting American investors need a signal that it would be good to invest in the Philippines.

During a meeting with US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai in April 2023, Pascual already expressed the country’s interest in having a partnership with the US similar to the existing US-Japan critical minerals agreement.

In pushing for a critical minerals partnership, Pascual cited the abundance of critical mineral reserves in the Philippines and the US’ demand for nickel for processing into batteries for electric vehicles.

The US and Japan signed the critical minerals agreement in March 2023.

Under that agreement, the US and Japan commit to facilitate trade, promote fair competition and market-oriented conditions for trade in critical minerals, advance robust labor and environmental standards and cooperate in efforts to ensure secure, transparent, sustainable and equitable critical minerals supply chains.

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