• Melo Acuna

Changes seen in policies under President-Elect Joe Biden

Scholar sees possible changes under President-elect Biden; PH-CH relations improved

MANILA – Filipino scholar Dr. Lucio Blanco Pitlo III said outgoing President Donald Trump’s preference for bilateral trade deals and resort to tariff wars and decoupling challenged regional free trade agreements and disrupted global value chains.

“President-elect Joe Biden may recommit the United States to the fold of multilateralism and reverse policies of the previous administration that undermine globalization,” Dr. Pitlo said in response to emailed questions two days ago.

He added President Biden’s return to multilateralism “presents an opportunity for US, China, ASEAN and other regional economies to renew efforts to deepen economic interdependence.”

He explained market access, subsidies, critical national sectors, currency policies, labor and environmental standards will continue to be difficult subjects of negotiations though he sees gradual progress in a multilateral platform will redound to benefits to all over time.

Asked of his thoughts about the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Professor Pitlo said APEC promotes free trade and globalization with its members coming from the world’s biggest and fastest growing economies, the group “contributes in shaping riles of the road for global trade governance.”

“As alarming trends towards isolationism and protectionist grew in recent years, the work of organizations like APEC becomes more valuable,” he added.

Professor Pitlo said the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) supports the Duterte government’s flagship infrastructure program, the widely publicized Build, Build, Build. Among the projects up for financing include the Philippine National Railways (PNR) Southrail, Subic-Clark and Mindanao Railways, water including the Chico River irrigation project, the Kaliwa dam and power infrastructure are expected to boost the country’s connectivity and improve its water security and power supply and lower costs.

“Chinese investments in a steel plant can improve downstream manufacturing industries as well as capital for industrial parks and economic zones will definitely generate jobs and upgrade Filipino skills and bring revenues for the government.

He said under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, relations between the Philippines and China improved a lot. However, he added the weak absorptive capacity and structural issues limit the Philippines’ ability to seize more opportunities.

“Investing in infrastructure is crucial to improve the country’s competitiveness, reducing losses from traffic and logistical bottlenecks, lowering power and utilities costs as well as facilitating more efficient inter-island movement and trade,” he said. He added China can help on these areas and if the next administration can carry this positive momentum, economic ties can further expand benefitting both sides.

Asked of his thoughts about the Philippines’ role in upgrading China-ASEAN relations being its dialogue coordinator until next year, Professor Pitlo said the Asian region is suffering its worst economic contraction since the 1997-98 financial crisis. He said the Philippines can leverage its position to help coordinate policies to revive battered regional economies.

“This may, for instance, include creating more ‘fast’ and ‘green’ lanes to keep the flow of essential goods and workers and incrementally resume trade and investments,’ he explained.

He said the Philippines can also help coordinate ASEAN-China cooperation in the development and distribution of Anti-COVID-19 vaccines which will ‘bode well for the recovery especially in hard-hit countries.”

Professor Pitlo, now 38 years old, is a Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress, Asian Center at the University of the Philippines, West Philippine Sea Primer Project, and several others and has worked as Lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.

He had his graduate studies on Defense, Diplomacy and Development at American University while he studied Chinese Civil Law at Peking University. His Bachelor’s Degree was on Asian Students as well as Public Administration at the University of the Philippines at Diliman, Quezon City. (Melo M. Acuña)

Professor Lucio Blanco Pitlo III. (File Photo/Melo M. Acuna)

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