The Confederation of Garment Exporters of the Philippines, a Manila-based private association comprised of companies involved that nation’s garment trade, has hired D.C.-based lobbying firm Sorini, Samet & Associates to advocate a potential bilateral free trade agreement between the US and the Philippines.

The retainer comes as the two countries continue exploratory talks regarding the possible United States-Philippines Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. Leaders from both countries initially raised the possibility of a bilateral free trade agreement last year, when President Trump visited Manila to meet with strong-arm Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ron Sorini (L) & Andrew SametRon Sorini (L) & Andrew Samet

Trump has said he’s interested in exploring the matter with U.S. officials in the coming months, with the U.S. Office of the Press Secretary issuing a statement that said: “The United States welcomes the Philippines’ interest in a bilateral free trade agreement and both sides agreed to discuss the matter further.”

CONGEP has hired SS&A to conduct outreach to U.S. officials and relevant private sector organizations for the purpose of building the groundwork and assessing the possibility for a free trade agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines and to support the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry's efforts to do the same.

SS&A co-founder Andrew Samet, a one-time advisor to former New York Senator Daniel Moynihan, was Labor Undersecretary for international activities in the Clinton Administration, where he dealt with global trade matters.

Co-founder Ron Sorini held positions in the Commerce Dept.and was appointed by President George HW Bush as chief negotiator at the Office of the US Trade Representative before being named senior VP-international development and government relations at Fruit of the Loom.

The four-week pact runs from May to June and brings SS&A $8,000.

SS&A in 2014 represented CONGEP in a bid to encourage Congress to pass free trade zones that would promote development in areas of the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.