Marcos may discuss Taiwan in US trip but trade tops agenda – envoy | Global News

Marcos may discuss Taiwan in US trip but trade tops agenda – envoy

/ 05:00 AM April 26, 2023

Ambassador Romualdez: US 'finds' PH ‘refreshing’ under Bongbong Marcos

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez (File photo by ANDREW HARNIK  / POOL / Agence France-Presse)

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may discuss tensions over Taiwan with US President Joe Biden at the White House next week, but the focus of talks will be on trade and investment, a top diplomat said on Tuesday.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez told Reuters that Marcos would prioritize economic discussions on energy, climate, and trade during his first official visit to Washington on May 1.


“China, of course, is our number one trading partner,” Romualdez said. “Japan is also a trading partner. And so the United States is one of those countries that we would like to be able to have more trade.”


According to him, the government wants the US Congress to renew its access to US trade preferences for developing economies, which expired in 2020. The talks will be the latest in a series of high-level meetings the Philippines has held with the leaders of the United States and China, which are jostling for strategic advantage in the region.

Marcos met China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing in January and the foreign minister last week.

He may or may not discuss Taiwan with Biden but is focused on avoiding conflict, Romualdez said.

For defense purposes

“On a clear day, from the northernmost part of the country, you can see Taiwan,” he said. “So that’s how close it is. Obviously, it will affect us … If anything happens in Taiwan, everybody will be affected, most especially in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region, but the whole world.”

Romualdez said the Philippines did not want China to “feel that we are out on an offensive because of our relationship with the United States … Everything that we’re doing is purely for the defense of our country.”

The treaty allies have enjoyed warmer ties since Mr. Marcos took office last June, reversing his predecessor’s anti-American stance. More than 17,000 Filipino and American soldiers are currently conducting their largest-ever joint military drills.


Concerns are also rising about a military buildup by Beijing in the South China Sea.

Marcos said in a radio interview on Monday that he would press Biden to make clear the extent of Washington’s commitment to protect the Philippines under a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, citing the “heating up” of regional tensions.

“It [the treaty] needs to adjust because of the changes in the situation we are facing in the South China Sea, Taiwan [and] North Korea,” he said in a radio interview. “The situation is heating up.”

The push for clarity comes amid a steady buildup of military and coast guard assets by Beijing in the South China Sea, including artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago that are equipped with missile systems within range of the Philippines.

China, in turn, has accused the government of stoking tensions by almost doubling the number of its bases that the US military can access under their defense agreement. Some of those bases face north toward Taiwan. Mr. Marcos said he and Biden should discuss what exactly their alliance entails and how to manage tension with China.

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“What is our partnership? What can be done to tone down or reduce rhetoric? Because there has been an exchange of heated words,” he said.

TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Joe Biden, Mutual Defense Treaty, One China policy, PH-China Relations, PH-Taiwan relations, PH-US Relations

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