The Philippines may have to look into forging a sectoral free trade deal with the United States rather than a wholistic one, according to Michael Michalak, senior vice president and regional managing director of the US-Asean Business Council.

    In his remarks at the 9th Arangkada Forum yesterday, Michalak also suggested a model where the Philippines can partner with one or two countries in forging a deal with the US.

    Michalak also said there is also an ongoing push for an Asean-US free trade agreement (FTA).

    Michalak said a bilateral Philippines-US FTA “will take time” noting there is a higher chance of a multilateral or plurilateral agreement at this time.

    Michalak said the FTA with the US is subject for review of and discussions with stakeholders.

    “We will have to wait-and see,” he said, adding “the Philippines should think of sectoral agreement that can grow into an FTA.”

    This scheme, he said, has been done by the US with Japan, covering mostly agriculture.

    Michalak added the Philippines can tie up with one or two countries to make a more attractive package and engage an FTA discussions with the US.

    Another potential is for the Philippines to work with Asean countries and promote an Asean-US FTA, the region being an important partner as a whole.

    He also suggested a hybrid model that can be set up in digital space.

    Michalak sees this as a pathfinder where it can start out with the Philippines and other countries may join once ready.

    Besides the potential of multilateral or plurilateral agreement, Michalak said “there are ways to use the Philippines’ positive points to attract (investors) and take another look at the Philippines by highlighting and distinguishing (itself) from (the rest of) Southeast Asia.”

    He cited the potential of the Philippines as an advanced innovator particularly as it jumped to 50th in the Global Innovation Index, 50 places up in just five years. – Irma Isip