The Trade department will consult stakeholders today on a proposed agreement with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that is expected to expand the country’s access to the continent.
“Our goal is to maximize benefits of our trade agreements with Europe,” Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. said.
A free trade agreement (FTA) with EFTA countries, Cristobal stressed, is a logical next step as the Philippines looks to expand into markets in the rest of the world.
He said discussions would cover FTA issues, which include technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures (or those relating to agricultural goods crossing borders), trade facilitation, intellectual property rights, public procurement, competition, and sustainable development.
The government considers EFTA as an important global economic player and trading partner of the Philippines. In 2014, the total commodity trade between EFTA states and the country amounted to around $636 million.
Foreign direct investments (FDI) in the Philippines from EFTA states have also increased steadily in the last few years. EFTA-based multinational companies have set up several joint ventures in the country, focusing on electrical equipment, chemicals, industrial machinery, mechanical/engineering industries, and pharmaceuticals sectors.
The Philippines is aggressively pursuing trade with Europe, utilizing regional and bilateral modalities.
The country is currently in negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a possible free trade agreement. So far, the country has successfully gained beneficiary country status for the EU-Generalized System of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+).
EU-GSP+ is a preferential tariff scheme, which allows the Philippines to export more than 6,000 products to any EU member country tariff free.
To maximize benefits of the EU-GSP+, the DTI has also been conducting information sessions with the business sector in key cities in the country to prepare businesses, including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to participate in the preferential scheme.
Recently, the Philippines and France revived its Joint Economic Commission to deepen trade ties between the two countries.
The PH-EFTA consultation is an initiative under the One Country, One Voice (OCOV) program, the government’s consultative mechanism for stakeholder participation in trade policy formulation.
The DTI is also scheduled to consult with stakeholders to discuss the status of free trade agreement negotiations with EU.
Launched in 2011, OCOV facilitates transparency and accountability, as government undertakes the process of engaging in dialogues, building mutual trust, and arriving at rational, sound, and balanced trade policies in pursuit of national development.