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The Philippines and India have agreed to look into a proposed preferential trade agreement (PTA) that will expand areas of bilateral trade and reduce or eliminate tariffs on products, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The two countries agreed during the 13th Meeting of the Joint Working Group on Trade and Investments that a PTA is a more focused and practical approach to enhancing bilateral trade and hashing out concerns.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said the Philippines is eager to conclude a PTA with India to improve trade levels in terms of value, volume, and breadth of products covered, noting that current trade is “highly concentrated on a few products.”

For his part, Joint Secretary Anant Swarup of India’s Department of Commerce stressed that India recognizes the benefits of negotiating a PTA with the Philippines, and called on both countries to consult authorities and secure the mandate for PTA negotiations.

Ahead of PTA negotiations, a webinar on India-Philippines Enhancing Bilateral Economic and Trade Relationship was conducted on September 25, 2020 by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Indian Industry, Embassy of India in Manila, and Embassy of the Philippines in New Delhi. The webinar recognized opportunities for collaboration in the fields of pharmaceuticals, information technology, and financial technology.

DTI assistant secretary Allan B. Gepty said the PTA is “a concrete response to harness the potentials of the complementarities particularly in supporting linkages and addressing supply chain gaps through enhanced market access of inputs and raw materials” in the identified areas of trade.

The proposed PTA was fully supported by Ramon S. Bagatsing, Jr., ambassador of the Philippines to India, and Shambhu S. Kumaran, ambassador of India to the Philippines. Both ambassadors as well as the business chambers underscored the need to set timelines for the immediate start and conclusion of negotiations.

In 2019, Oxford Economics came up with the top 10 emerging markets that will dominate the global economy in the next decade. Notably, India ranked first and the Philippines ranked second, DTI noted.

The agreement on a PTA comes at a time when signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which India has withdrawn from, is set for November this year after the participating countries resolved almost all remaining outstanding issues.

READ: RCEP economies advance talks on mega trade pact

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year withdrew from RCEP, stating that the current version did not satisfactorily address the concerns of his country.

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