Washington, DC, United States—Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and US Department of Commerce (DOC) Secretary Gina Raimondo met in Washington, DC to discuss the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and the economic reforms by the Philippines under the Duterte Administration. Secretary Lopez outlined the recently growing US investments in the country, specifically in building data centers for hyperscalers, with the corresponding renewable energy projects as clean energy sources, green metals mineral processing, including nickel hydroxide and nickel zinc batteries for EVs, renewable energy storage systems and other digital infrastructure.

Recognizing the significant accomplishments of both countries resulting from their long-standing diplomatic ties of the last 75 years, Secretary Lopez conveyed that DTI looks forward to progressing discussions on international cooperation, including on trade, industry, and investments, where DTI endeavors to actualize opportunities for strategic collaboration and partnership.

The Trade Secretary shared the significant economic policy reforms under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to improve the business environment, providing the impetus to encourage more

investments from the US. Secretary Lopez shared information on the investors that he met in Washington D.C. who will be engaged in different business activities in the Philippines such as logistics, ship-building facilities, minerals processing, and data centers. The trade chief relayed the increasing number of US hyperscale data center developers that are moving in and expanding in the country. These investors were encouraged by improvements in the business environment brought on by government reforms. 

“The growth in data centers will also lead to more renewable energy (RE) demand since RE is the required source of energy for these facilities. The government reforms put in place by the Duterte administration will support building stronger trade and investment ties with the US,” explained Secretary Lopez.

US Commerce Secretary Raimondo welcomed the visit of Secretary Lopez and thanked the DTI Secretary for personally informing her of the various US investments to the Philippines. Secretary Raimondo also said that the reforms by the Philippine government especially those that liberalized public services and retail trade will certainly attract more US investors.

On the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), Secretary Lopez welcomed Secretary Raimondo’s statement that the US is keen to have the Philippines in the IPEF. The DTI Secretary conveyed the country’s support and interest to join the initiative. He noted that the terms of the objectives of the IPEF such as advancing resilience, inclusiveness, and competitiveness, as well as technology, innovation, digital economy, energy transition, climate goals, and equitable growth are aligned with the Philippines’ trade priorities. The IPEF is a US-led initiative and is seen by many as the US’ effort to preserve its international leadership and presence in the region.  

On green metals, Secretary Lopez underscored the value proposition for the US to consider the Philippines as a strategic partner in the supply of critical minerals. “The Philippines has vast resources of green metals such as nickel and cobalt, which are key inputs for battery manufacturing. The country is also abundant in copper, which is likewise an important input for the production and manufacture of technology products,” he said.

The Philippines is the biggest source of nickel in the world, accounting for 31% of global exports.

Secretary Lopez further emphasized that US companies stand to benefit from a partnership with the Philippines to develop the midstream value chain. The US can consider the Philippines as a viable and reliable partner for critical minerals for defense and commercial applications. Further, the Philippines also has a strong regime for strategic trade management, intellectual property protection, and labor and environmental protection, which, apart from strong competencies in electronics, could be leveraged to support electric vehicle and battery manufacturing.

The Secretaries welcomed the reopening of borders in the region and noted its importance in spurring investments. They also both looked forward to closer cooperation between the DTI and DOC to unlock more US capital investments for the Philippines.

In closing, Secretary Lopez expressed that the Philippines stays true to the vision of enhanced engagement with the US through the IPEF or similar initiatives such as the Philippine-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the High-Level Diplomatic Reception for Government Officials and Business Leaders on 19 April 2022 in Washington, DC. Secretary Lopez was joined by DTI Undersecretary for Industry Development and Trade Policy Group (DTI-IDTPG) Ceferino Rodolfo, Commercial Counselor Kenneth Yap, and Consul Commercial Benedict Uy. In 2021, the US was the Philippines’ 3rd largest trading partner (out of 223), top export market (out of 205), and 5th largest import supplier (out of 210). Total bilateral trade with the US reached USD 19.6 billion, with the Philippines enjoying a modest trade surplus. The US was also the Philippines’ 5th largest investor in the same year with approved investments amounting to USD 77.64 million. ♦

Date of Release: 21 April 2022