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Philippines eyes free trade deal with Chile

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Chile on Monday signed a letter of intent on a joint feasibility study that would look into the benefits of a free trade agreement between the two countries.
President Benigno S. Aquino III and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet witnessed the signing of the Letter of Intent by Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo and Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz in Malacañang Palace.
The Letter of Intent signifies the Philippines’ and Chile’s intent to commence discussions on developing a framework for negotiating a mutually beneficial trade agreement that is flexible and pragmatic as to its depth and scope, which may contribute to an increase in trade, in goods and investments, and the promotion of technical cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
“The Philippines and Chile have enjoyed warm relations for almost seventy years: relations founded on a shared history, and commonalities in faith, tradition, culture, and values. Our gathering today is indicative of our shared desire to advance this partnership. The President and I had engaging and broad-ranging discussions on the need to strengthen our relationship and also to explore new opportunities for cooperation,” President Aquino said during a joint press conference with President Bachelet at the Palace’s Reception Hall.
“President Bachelet and I witnessed the signing of a Letter of Intent on Enhancing Trade Relations. Through this, we mandate the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines and the General Directorate for International Economic Relations of Chile to continue talks in 2016 and develop a framework for a mutually beneficial trade agreement between our countries,” President Aquino further said.
President Bachelet, on the other hand, said her state visit “has been an excellent opportunity to deepen ties and to establish a substantial work agenda in bilateral areas”.
“In the bilateral area, Chile and the Philippines are seeking to promote and diversify trade, and because of that, we are initiating talks regarding free trade agreement,” said the Chilean leader, who is also attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
“In order to take the first step, today we signed the Letter of Intent in which we commit ourselves to conclude a feasibility, joint study to evaluate the potential benefits of a free trade agreement. Our wish is to start negotiation during the first semester of 2016 because we think it would be a good way to commemorate the 70 years of diplomatic relations between both countries,” she added.
The Letter of Intent on Enhancing Trade Relations is one of two agreements signed by the Philippines and Chile after President Aquino and President Bachelet’s expanded bilateral meeting held at Malacañang’s Aguinaldo State Dining Room.
Present during the bilateral meeting were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Romulo and Undersecretary Luningning Lacanlale; Presidential Management Staff head, Secretary Julia Abad; Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda; Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada; Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima; Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr.; Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman; Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras; National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Undersecretary Alexander Pama; and Philippine Ambassador to Chile Consuelo Puyat-Reyes.
The officials from Chile were Minister Counselor Camilo Sanhueza; Minister Counselor Patricio Victoriano, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office of Asia and Pacific Affairs director; Ambassador Gloria Navarrete, Ceremonial and Protocol general director; Ambassador Jorge Montero, Embassy of Chile chargé d’affaires; Ambassador Andres Rebolledo, vice minister of Commerce; Ambassador Maria del Carmen Domingues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Strategic Planning director; Haydee Rojas, chief of press of the Presidency; Paulina Nazal, director of Multi-lateral Economic Affairs of the General Directorate of International Economic Relations; and Maria Fernanda Vila, consul at the Embassy of Chile.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.