Philippine Ambassador Cuisia: A Modern Economic Diplomat

posted on April 16, 2012 in Diplomacy

On March 29th, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP) had the pleasure to hear the Ambassador from the Republic of the Philippines, His Excellency Jose L. Cuisia, address our membership at the Philippine Embassy as part of our Ambassador Series events. Ambassador Cuisia arrived in Washington, DC, in early 2011, as part of the new Philippine government’s focus on economic growth under President Benigno Aquino III. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell testified before Congress earlier this year on the U.S.-Philippine alliance, asserting that the U.S. Administration would deepen its bilateral security and trade partnership with the Philippines as outlined by President Obama during President Aquino’s first official visit to Washington in October 2010. Goldman Sachs has identified the Philippines as one of the Next 11 countries with the potential of becoming one of the world’s largest economies based on investment and economic growth projections. HSBC predicts that the Philippine economy will become the 16th largest in the world, the 5th largest in Asia, and the largest in Southeast Asia, surpassing Indonesia by 2050. In addition, there is a growing interest among YPFP members in Southeast Asia and hearing from Ambassador Cuisia this March was certainly timely.

Ambassador Cuisia comes from the private sector and this is his first diplomatic post abroad. He spent most of his career in the banking and insurance sector where he served in senior positions for global companies such as American International Group (AIG) and leading banks such as the Union Bank of the Philippines. He also served as Central Bank Governor, chairman of the Monetary Board and chairman of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation in the early 1990’s. He has received numerous awards including the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Domestic Banking, the Joseph Wharton Award for Lifetime Achievement, Management Association of the Philippines’ Management Man of the Year for 2007, and the Raul Locsin CEO of the Year Award in 2004.

Ambassador Cuisia’s address underscored the long history of amicable relations between the United States and the Philippines. He emphasized that there were several major events in 2011 that elevated the strategic partnership. Among them, the ambassador expanded on three milestones aimed at boosting commercial linkages between both countries, including the September 2011 meeting in Washington, DC, where U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk met his Philippine’s trade counterpart to discuss ways to step up the existing Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Both countries later signed a Customs Administration and Trade Facilitation agreement on the sidelines of the APEC conference in Honolulu on November 19, signaling progress by the Philippine government to fulfill its commitments to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Around the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was in Manila on November 16 with President Aquino to launch a new Partnership for Growth (PFG) , a five year plan for economic development. The Philippine economy is the 45th largest in the world and had a staggering 7.6% GDP growth rate in 2010.

YPFP members were interested in learning more from the Ambassador, including current programs that the Philippine government has enacted to encourage the Philippine Diaspora to contribute back to their home country, expansion of the Philippine maritime security, whether the U.S. sanctions against Iran affected the Philippine’s import of oil and energy security, budgetary allocations aimed at economic development and poverty reduction, investments for infrastructure development, advancements in U.S.-Philippine military cooperation, and the integration of the Philippines into Trans-Pacific Partnership. YPFP also discussed with the Ambassador ways its members can be become more involved in U.S.-Philippine relations and how they can be a proponent of economic and political developments.

The Ambassador welcomed YPFP members at the embassy with a networking reception featuring Philippine cuisine and drink. As the director of the Ambassador Series at YPFP, I was pleased to have Ambassador Cuisia and senior diplomats meet with so many YPFP members from across the spectrum from the U.S. departments of Commerce, State, Defense, Health & Human Services, Education, Justice, Treasury, students from major universities, staff of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, an array of think tank representatives, and employees of private sector companies.

By Amanda Riggs, Director, Ambassador Series, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy