US ambassador to the Philippines talks military ties and trade treaties

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ambassador
Ambassador Sung Kim.

The US ambassador to the Philippines has expressed willingness to review the 67-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty between Washington and Manila.

“If there are any adjustments that would be useful, certainly we would welcome an opportunity to make adjustments,” Ambassador Sung Kim told reporters at the US-Philippines Think Tank Conference in Makati City today (Thursday, February 7).

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The envoy acknowledged the need to go over an agreement as “important” and as “complicated” as the MDT so as to adapt to the evolving circumstances.

“We would welcome taking a close look at the treaty to see whether we can make any adjustments to make it even better than what it is now,” he said.

The 1951 MDT is the country’s only defence pact with another nation. 

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The possibility of reviewing the treaty was first raised by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last December. He said he had directed lawyers from his department to look into the matter, with the objective to “maintain it, strengthen it or scrap it”.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, in a message delivered by Undersecretary Enrique Manalo, said the Philippines-US defence and security cooperation remained “strong and robust”.

As treaty allies, Locsin emphasised that the militaries of both countries were continuing to work closely together, particularly in addressing non-traditional security matters, such as fighting the drug trade and terrorism.

Ambassador Kim also said today that he was positive that Washington and Manila could forge a free trade agreement.

“Both sides are continuing discussions on how best to move forward in expanding the bilateral relationship,” he said.

US goods exported to the Philippines amounted to $8.3 billion, while imports from the Philippines totalled $10 billion, according to a 2017 report of the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

The Philippines was the United States’ 31st largest goods export market in 2016.

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