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  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump held their first bilateral meeting in Manila on November 13.

    The meeting focused on trade, war on drugs, and terrorism.

    Harry Roque, the spokesperson of Duterte, said that the meeting between the two leaders was “very warm, friendly, and candid”.

    Both Duterte and Trump agreed that addressing terrorism and violent extremism must also be given a priority.

    During the meeting, President Duterte seized the opportunity to thank the US leader for his government’s assistance in resolving the Marawi conflict.

    The meeting between Duterte and Trump was held at the Philippine International Convention Center.

    In their 40-minute meeting, Duterte suggested that a free trade agreement (FTA) be concluded between the US and the Philippines.

    “The Philippines expressed a view that they’re appreciative of the general system of preference,” Roque said.

    The Philippines and the US have yet to conclude talks on an FTA, but Roque noted that “President Trump said they will study the matter.”

    Duterte and Trump also noticed that the Business Process Outsourcing industry has advanced in the Philippines.

    The two leaders agreed to work on policies to reduce the trade surplus between the two countries.

    Trump, on the other hand, singled out the issue in tariffs being imposed on US automobiles. Such tariffs were not being imposed on Japanese cars, Roque said.

    Despite earlier pronouncements from the White House that Trump will bring up human rights in his meeting with Duterte, the issue did not come up during their talks.

    Duterte discussed the drug problem in the Philippines while Trump appeared sympathetic.

    “The US President appeared sympathetic and did not have any official position on the matter. He was merely nodding his head, indicating that he understood the domestic problem that we face on drugs,” Roque said.

    In the past, Trump had wished Duterte’s so-called war on drugs to succeed.

    In a leaked telephone conversation transcript last May, Trump congratulated Duterte for his administration’s crackdown against illegal drugs.

    “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump told Duterte.

    On Sunday (November 12), Duterte granted Trump’s request that he sing during the gala dinner of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit hosted by the Philippine government.

    A video tweeted by lawyer Karen Jimeno showed Duterte singing “Ikaw” with singer Pilita Corrales.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, I sang an invited duet with Ms. Pilita Corrales upon the orders of the Commander-in-chief of the United States,” Duterte said.

    Duterte, together with his partner Honeylet Avanceña, hosted the celebration at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

    Trump and leaders of the 10-member ASEAN, plus China, Russia, Japan, Canada, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, were entertained by singers and dancers at the dinner.

    Each sported a cream-colored barong, a traditional Philippines shirt made of fiber from the pineapple plant, hand-embroidered and worn untucked.

    They were served a four-course Filipino-Asian fusion meal curated and prepared by Jessie Sincioco, the chef who also designed the menu for Pope Francis when he visited the Philippines in 2015.

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