The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is optimistic that the Philippines-European Free Trade Association (PH-EFTA) Free Trade Agreement will be sealed before June 2016.
The fifth round of Philippine negotiations with EFTA member economies ̶ Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland – was concluded earlier this month, DTI Undersecretary for Industry Development Ceferino S. Rodolfo said in a statement.
The PH-EFTA trade agreement seeks to solidify the partnerships between the Philippines and the four European countries under a trade regime of freer and more efficient flow of goods and services and addressing all barriers.
“We have made substantial progress in key areas of complementation and are optimistic that we can sign the agreement before June this year,” Rodolfo said.
Prior to the negotiations, the DTI has conducted eight consultations on a possible PH-EFTA free trade agreement.
“We are grateful to the private sector, to the government agencies, civil society, and the academe for their active involvement and participation in the series of consultations held since 2013 prior to the negotiations with EFTA,” Rodolfo said.
With the FTA negotiations nearing conclusion, Rodolfo said the government is developing a work program to encourage and promote the agreement so that the local industries and sectors will be able to benefit from the PH-EFTA FTA.
“Right now, most Philippine products have duty free access to the EU through the European Union’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+). We are targeting a more permanent and long-term relationship through the ongoing negotiations with EFTA,” he said, adding that a strong foothold in the European market is significant to the country’s trade strategy.
“Improving market access with Europe through EFTA will encourage investments in the services and non-services sector, bring in high value added products, technological know-how, and capital from their highly developed economies to our local economy,” he added.
In 2014, the top Philippine exports to EFTA members are gold in semi-manufactured forms, digital monolithic integrated circuits, aircraft parts, printed circuits, artificial teeth and silver.
Philippine imports from EFTA include medicaments, diagnostic or laboratory reagents, airplane and helicopter parts, and wrist-watches.
The Philippines is also advancing its participation in negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), continuing technical consultations with the rest of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries Chile, Peru, Japan, and Vietnam.
Last year, technical consultations were held with Canada and Mexico following the consultations with the United States, Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand in 2014.
“The country’s sectors and industries stand to benefit greatly from these trade initiatives. These will further improve the country’s global standing as we engage in freer trade and attract more foreign direct investments,” Rodolfo noted.