• PH, EFTA continue free trade discussions

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    The four member countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are willing to provide duty-free access to Philippine industrial goods, Trade Assistant Secretary Ceferino Rodolfo said.

    Rodolfo, speaking on the sidelines of a media seminar during the weekend, said the EFTA also offered tariffs on agricultural products that were “better than they have given to their any other free trade agreement [FTA] partners.”

    The Philippines and the EFTA staged the fourth round of negotiations for an FTA last November 24 to 27 in Geneva, Switzerland.

    “There … [was]good exchange of information on … what goods they would like from us and what goods we want to get from them,” Rodolfo said.

    Among others, the Philippines would like to export higher value added products like garments, fisheries products, coco sugar and coco water. The EFTA, meanwhile, manufactures high precision parts that are not produced in the Philippines.

    Rodolfo said the Philippines was hoping to conclude a deal by February next year.

    The fifth round will include discussions on agreements on trade in goods, government procurement, services, investments and finalizing market access schedules.

    The possible Philippines-EFTA FTA will then undergo legal review, which Rodolfo said would be easy as a representative from the Department of Justice is present during discussions.

    “We’re working to have an agreement that is good for us by mid-2016,” Rodolfo said.

    He stressed that there was huge potential for the Philippines and the EFTA to improve trade and investments.

    The EFTA currently accounts for 1.0 percent of the country’s trade and Rodolfo said the aim is to double this to 2.0 percent or even 3.0 percent two years after the implementation of the FTA.

    The EFTA comprises Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

    PNA

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