The SAVE Act: “Free trade among free people”

By THELMA DUMPIT-MURILLO

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VISITING US solons expressed their support for the SAVE Act now pending before the US Congress during a dinner hosted by the Philippines-United States Business Council.

DTI Undersecretary Cristino L. Panlilio took the occasion to appeal to the visiting legislators as he cited the long historic ties between the Philippines and United States and the mutual benefits that can be derived by both the American textile industry and Philippine garment manufacturers in the form of jobs.

A landmark piece of legislation, the SAVE Act hopes to revive the Philippines’ garment industry that has been in the doldrums ever since the end of the quota regime at the same time increase exports of US textiles to the Philippines and other ASEAN countries of up to $500 million dollars. The end result will definitely redound to great benefits for both the Philippines and American people. A win-win solution to what was once a losing proposition.

Panlilio lamented that while we share a history with the United States dating back to World War II, no bilateral trade agreement has been passed to expand trade between the Philippines and the United States.

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California committed to push for the bill once reintroduced in the US Congress and enjoined his fellow congressmen to do the same.

“Free trade should be encouraged among free people,” Rohrabacher said. The Philippines is a democracy. We should allow further trade to prosper, he added.

Rohrabacher who chairs the powerful Committee on Foreign-Relations also headed the US Congressional delegation which included Democrats Russ Carnahan of Missouri, Jim Costa of California, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Republicans Louie Gohmert and Ted Poe, both from Texas.

Another comment heard from one concerned congressman cited the country’s competitive advantage in English as going down and urged that something be done about it.

“You’re losing it. Your English proficiency advantage is slowly being eroded and may soon disappear if not addressed,” he added. Quite so. If only for this, I find some wisdom in the K-12 project of the DepEd. But more important, I think there is a need to improve the quality of our teachers some of whom cannot even speak straight English themselves.

Aside from the SAVE Act and english proficiency, the American legislators, accompanied by senior staff of the US House of Representatives and US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas also asked about security issues especially in Mindanao, the Spratlys, and money laundering activities by international banks.

Philippines – United States Business Council Chairman Ramon del Rosario, Jr. led representatives of the business community and former government officials which included former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo, former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, former Trade Secretary Rizalino Navarro and former Senator Richard Gordon, who is a good friend of Congressman Rohrabacher.

Guangzhou delegation
Also recent visitors in the country were officials and businessmen from Guangzhou for the Manila— Guangzhou Trade and Investment Conference organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the China Council for the Promotion of Trade (CCPIT) Guangzhou Sub – council in cooperation with the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The 146 – man delegation came to explore and forge business ventures in the areas of distributorship, export-import and investments in automobile, food, hotel supplies, garments, wines and liquor among other things.

As to garments, the SAVE Act model is one that may be explored to expand trade with China. Textiles made in China may be exported to the Philippines to be cut and sewn by our garments manufacturers and then re-exported to China duty free. With labor costs in China going up and with the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement in place, this may be a viable option to revive the garments industry in the Philippines.

SOURCE: Manila Times Online, http://www.manilatimes.net/opinion/%E2%80%9Cfree-trade-among-free-people%E2%80%9D/

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