TOP officials of the Philippines and Mexico have agreed to explore free trade and currency agreements to further strengthen bilateral ties and facilitate economic transactions between the two countries, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Friday.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Mexican Ambassador to Manila Julio Camarena Villasenor discussed these possible agreements during a recent meeting, along with Mexico’s concerns regarding double taxation and visa arrangements for its nationals visiting the Philippines.
In the meeting, Dominguez also expressed his gratitude to the Mexican government for supporting the Philippines’ campaign against illegal drugs, through an exchange of information between the two sides regarding drug trafficking.
Dominguez broached the possibility of a currency agreement with Mexico, while Camarena proposed talks on a free trade deal with the Philippines, which, he said, was welcomed favorably by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez during their earlier meeting last year.
“Our country has a common history. In fact, the galleon trade (between Mexico and the Philippines) was the first true free trade agreement,” the DOF said quoting Camarena during the meeting.
Camarena said Mexico has brought in some US$2.8 billion in investments to the Philippines, including business operations by Cemex, its largest cement and building materials manufacturer, and Coke-FEMSA, the world’s biggest franchise bottler of Coca Cola products.
The Philippines, in turn, has some US$600 million in private-sector investments in Mexico, including Enrique Razon’s International Container Terminal Services Inc. and Ayala Corp.’s Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc. (IMI).
In the meeting, Dominguez assured Camarena that he would help push the Philippines-Mexico agreement on the avoidance of double taxation, which remains pending in the Senate for concurrence.
He likewise assured the Mexican ambassador that he would discuss with the relevant government agencies the possibility of reciprocating Mexico’s liberal visa arrangement for Filipinos, which allows them to enter visa-free and stay in that country for as long as six months if they hold a Schengen, US or Japan visa.
Mexican residents visiting the Philippines, in turn, currently enjoy visa-free entry to the country but may only stay for a maximum of 29 days here.
Dominguez also informed Camarena of an upcoming DOF mission to Mexico led by Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua to study the Mexican government’s implementation of its sugar tax, to which the Ambassador assured the finance chief of his full support and assistance.
Last year, the Philippines and Mexico discussed the establishment of a Joint Economic Committee to further expand bilateral trade and investments between the two countries.
In his meeting last October with Trade Secretary Lopez, Camarena said Mexico invests more in the Philippines than it does in other East Asian countries and expressed Mexico’s interest in making Manila its economic gateway to this region.
As of 2015, Mexico ranked as the Philippines’ 28th trading partner and 19th export market.
Commercial relations between the Philippines and Mexico date back to 400 years ago, with the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade in 1565 beginning the two-way exchange of goods between the two countries. ( SDR/SunStar Philippines)