President Rodrigo Roa Duterte affirmed the strong relationship of the Philippines with the United States during his bilateral meeting with President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings on Monday, November 13.
This is the first formal meeting between the two leaders since they assumed office last year.
In their 40-minute discussion, the two leaders touched on matters of mutual interest between the two countries such as trade and economy.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who was present during the meeting, the Philippines expressed view of being appreciative of the Generalized System of Preferences and suggested that free trade agreement also be concluded between the US and the Philippines.
Roque said the US observed that the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry has become very important in the Philippines promising to find ways to reduce the trade surplus between the two nations.
He added that the US will try to work out something to reduce the deficit of trade between the Philippines and China.
On improving trade relations, Roque said President Trump singled out the issue on tariffs being imposed on US automobiles while such tariffs are not being imposed on Japanese cars.
The Palace official described the meeting between the two leaders as “frank.”
“They affirm the very close ties between the Philippines and the United States,” he said.
“President Trump specifically said that he has always been a friend of the Duterte administration unlike the previous administrations of the United States. But he stressed that he can be counted upon as a friend of the Duterte administration,” he added.
Roque, meanwhile, said the issue on human rights was not discussed during the meeting.
“It was not brought up. It was President Duterte who discussed with US President Trump the drug menace in the Philippines. And the US President appeared sympathetic and did not have any official position on the matter but was merely nodding his head indicating that he understood the domestic problem that we face on drugs,” he said.
Duterte also thanked Trump for extending assistance during the Marawi conflict.
On a lighter note, Roque said Trump revealed that he made Duterte sing after hearing him humming during the gala dinner hosted by the President for the world leaders on Sunday night.
In a short message made by President Trump before the bilateral meeting, he underscored the “great relationship” of the Philippines and US.
He lauded President Duterte for the successful hosting of the ASEAN Summit.
“The ASEAN conference has been handled beautifully by the President and the Philippines and your representatives,” he said.
“And I really enjoyed being here. The weather is always good. Today it’s pretty good. But one thing about the Philippines eventually it gets good no matter what,” he added.
He likewise thanked the Philippines for the hospitality and warm treatment afforded to him and his delegation.
“We very much appreciate the great treatment you have given us. I thought last night’s event was fantastic, tremendous talent. Most of them I guess from the Philippines. But tremendous talent. Musical talent, dance talent and we really had a tremendous time, all of the leaders,” Trump said of Sunday’s gala dinner.
“I think on behalf of everybody, I want to thank you and I want to thank the Philippines. Thank you very much,” he said. PND