USA-Philippines trade & investments partnership launched for deeper relationship

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting the Philippines on Tuesday to initiate the Obama administration’s Partnership for Growth (PFG) program for devising measures to facilitate trade and investments in conflict, poverty and graft stricken countries such as Tanzania, El Salvador and Ghana.

Clinton’s one-day visit will also highlight the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty and pave the way for new strategies to ensure peace and stability in the region particularly in the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea where Chinese military intrusions have been increasing of late.

The PFG launching comes amid the Philippines’ efforts to strengthen measures to implement economic reforms and improve trade policies, in order to qualify for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that facilitates trade and investments between the US and four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Brunei.

With the PFG program, the US government seeks to coordinate programs across multiple agencies in order to improve development outcomes and provide a more transparent mechanism to facilitate business investment.

'Enduring alliance'

Clinton’s Philippine counterpart, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, will hold a bilateral meeting with her on Tuesday. He said her visit comes as a part of the administration of President Barack Obama’s thrust “to reaffirm and broaden alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific."

“Her visit underlines the enduring alliance and responsive strategic partnership between the Philippines and US, and is the latest concrete manifestation of US action and reengagement in the most dynamic region in the world – the Asia-Pacific," del Rosario said.

“The strategic partnership between the two countries also focuses on seizing opportunities for their mutual objective of growing their economies which is manifested in their cooperation under the Partnership for Growth (PFG)," he added.

Del Rosario noted that the Obama administration’s PFG is a new initiative that could unlock the Philippine potential for broad-based and sustained economic growth.

The Foreign Affairs secretary pointed out that out of only four countries chosen by the US to participate in this new type of engagement for development, “the Philippines was chosen due to its solid track record in economic performance, democratic governance, investment in its people and success on other US government investments."

Clinton is also meeting with Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin to discuss how the nations can bring their alliance to a higher level in 2012.

Obama hoping for "deeper relationship" with the Philippines

United States President Barack Obama expressed hope that the newly-signed security accord between Manila and Washington would "be an opportunity...to further deepen the relationship" of the two countries.

The relationship between the Philippines and the world's largest economy could be expanded to include maritime security, disaster, and humanitarian relief, Obama said on Friday during the 19th meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

"Obviously, the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Philippines is one that goes back for decades. This is an opportunity for us to discuss how we can further deepen that relationship," he said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a ten-member organization, which counts the Philippines as one of its members. Others are Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Brunei Darussalam.

Obama also expressed appreciation for meeting Philippine President Benigno Aquino III for the second time. The first time the two leaders met was during the Asean-US Leaders' Meeting in New York last year.

"He has been an astounding partner in a full range of multilateral issues. I want to commend President Aquino for his leadership, for his reform efforts. And I think that a relationship that's already very strong can only become stronger as a consequence of our continued interaction," Obama said in his welcome remarks.

He added that both countries have benefited from each other, especially as they have an "incredible person-to-person relations" as reflected by the large number of Filipinos in the United States and vice versa.

"Obviously, the contribution of Filipino Americans to the growth and prosperity of the United States has been incredibly important. And I think that the Philippines obviously has benefited from their interaction with Americans on a wide range of issues," the US President said.

For his part, Mr. Aquino recognized the opportunity to further enhance the country's relationship with the US.

"It’s true, we have one of the longest-running relationships, a strong base of shared values and history. And we look forward, in these turbulent times of ours, to really further strengthen our relationship," he said.

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