WASHINGTON — Following in the footsteps of other countries, the Philippines has asked the U.S. for quota increases on apparel and textiles.
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Secretary Mar Roxas of the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry said he discussed several issues, including apparel and textile quotas, with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick on Tuesday ahead of a meeting with trade ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Roxas stressed that the Philippines is not “pressing for specific trade concessions” from the U.S. in exchange for help in the war on terrorism.
“We presented issues pertaining to continued market access for our garment industries through interpretations of the quota rules, which are about to expire in any event, and which hopefully we can present a case for interpretation that would be helpful to us,” Roxas said at a news conference in Manila.
Zoellick said he discussed with Roxas how the Philippines will remain competitive in apparel and textile trade once quotas are removed at the end of 2004.
“Countries like the Philippines are going to face a question of whether or not they can sell in the United States, but they’re going to face more direct competition from others [primarily China],” Zoellick said. “And, obviously, we want to try to do what we can to help the Philippines remain in a good trading relationship with the United States.”
Zoellick noted apparel exports from the country have increased in volume by 73 percent since 1994. “So one of the things that we discussed in this interim phase is: Can we help perhaps link in with some of the retailers in the United States to make sure the relationships are well developed here?” Zoellick said.
The two officials participated later in the day in a meeting with ASEAN trade ministers to discuss President Bush’s Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative, which offers the prospect of bilateral and free-trade agreements between the U.S. and ASEAN countries.
Zoellick arrived in the Philippines after concluding a tentative free-trade deal with Singapore on Monday, although one issue remains unresolved. Details of the Singapore trade deal were not released, although one official said all outstanding textile and apparel issues have been resolved.
The U.S. had proposed a strict yarn-forward rule of origin, under which apparel must be made of yarn and fabric sourced within the free-trade region in order to be eligible for duty and quota breaks. Singapore, which does not have a well-developed textile or apparel industry, opposed such a strict rule throughout the negotiations. It is still unclear whether or not the U.S. agreed to tariff preference levels, which would allow a certain amount of fabric from anywhere in the world to be used in apparel production in Singapore and still qualify for trade breaks.
Zoellick said he still hopes to complete the deal by the end of the year, which must then be approved by Congress.