PH keen on resuming EU FTA talks

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Image by Alexandre Gonçalves da Rocha from Pixabay
  • The Philippines is keen on resuming negotiations for the Philippines-European Union free trade agreement, according to Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual
  • Pascual said the FTA will help the Philippines secure additional duty-free market access beyond those covered by the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus program
  • The FTA is “crucial for the Philippines to become a magnet for more European investments and increased trade,” said European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines president Lars Wittig

The Philippines is keen on resuming negotiations for the Philippines-European Union (EU) free trade agreement (FTA), according to Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual.

“I’d like to reemphasize our growth strategy centered around enhancing trade and investment. Our objective is to foster job creation and poverty reduction by uplifting the global position of our export sectors and driving investments into strategic areas,” Pascual said in his opening message during the EU-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business Council meeting on May 22.

Pascual said the FTA will help the Philippines secure additional duty-free market access beyond those covered by the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) program.

It will also provide a conducive framework for attracting greater investments from the EU and will place the Philippines at par with other ASEAN countries that are aggressively pursuing FTAs with the EU.

Exploratory talks for a PH-EU FTA started in 2013 and EU officially launched negotiations with the Philippines in December 2015.

Pascual noted that the EU GSP+ coverage of the Philippines will expire at the end of this year with the governments discussing its renewal.

He noted that since 2014, the EU-GSP+ has been instrumental in enabling the Philippines to enjoy broader market access and has significantly boosted exports.

In a separate statement, European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines president Lars Wittig said, “It is highly encouraged that the Philippines further leverages its status as the only ASEAN country beneficiary of the EU GSP+ trade preference.”

He added, “We equally look forward to further advancements in the EU-PH FTA discussions, which are crucial for the Philippines to become a magnet for more European investments and increased trade.”

GSP+ is an EU program that allows beneficiary countries’ products duty-free access to the European market.

The Philippines received beneficiary country status under the EU GSP+ in December 2014. Under this, the Philippines may export 6,274 eligible products duty-free to the EU market. Before December 2014, the country was covered by the regular EU GSP, which provides zero duty to only 2,442 products and reduced tariffs to 3,767 products.

About 26 % of total Philippine exports to the EU valued at EUR 1.6 billion (P27.2 billion at today’s exchange rate) enjoyed preferential treatment under this scheme in 2020.