Philippines explores FTA with India and UAE

Philippines explores FTA with India and UAE
Dubai skyline image by Elena Jones from Pixabay
  • Talks under way with India and the United Arab Emirates on a free trade agreement, a Department of Trade and Industry official says
  • The government is aiming for a preferential trade agreement with India that will cover just merchandise trade “with nothing on rules or market access”
  • The official said the Philippines is targeting a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with the UAE from which Filipino MSMEs could benefit

The Philippines is exploring free trade agreements (FTA) with India and the United Arab Emirates as the country seeks to expand its portfolio of preferential trade arrangements with other countries, a trade official has said.

Officials from the Department of Trade and Industry have begun talks with representatives from India and UAE to pave the way for the next steps, Trade Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty was reported as saying.

“For India, our aim is on a preferential trade agreement. So, it will just cover the trade of goods. Nothing on rules or market access,” Gepty told reporters on the sidelines of the British Chamber of Commerce Philippines’ 2023 outlook forum in Makati.

“With the UAE, we just basically launched [the manifestation], the intent to embark on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement. So the next step is for us to work on the terms of reference or the scoping paper for the trade negotiation,” he said.

Gepty said the Philippines as much as possible wants to maximize market access in the UAE, so halal food may be included as it was covered by the negotiations.

He added that the government wants to explore the market in the Emirates as thousands of Filipinos live and work there, a potential market for new Filipino micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) seeking to expand sales.

In fact, this February, a delegation comprising 18 Philippine companies will showcase premium certified halal (permissible) food products at a country exhibit in Dubai.

Gepty said the economic partnership agreement would also cover services that would allow Filipino professionals and service providers to start in UAE.

UAE hosts known Philippine franchise brands catering to OFWs in the Emirates. These are distributed by more than1,000 Filipino-owned businesses in various sectors that include food and beverage, trading and logistics, consultancy and other creative services, education and training and hospitality services.

The Emirates is one of the top destinations of OFWs in the Middle East. Most of them are in engineering and architecture, tourism and hospitality, customer service, and health and medical fields.

Next month, a delegation of 18 Philippine companies will showcase premium halal-certified food products through a country exhibit in the UAE capital Dubai, according to the Center of International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM).

The Gulf Food Hotel and Equipment Exhibition and Salon Culinaire, or Gulfood, will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from February 20 to 24, CITEM said.

CITEM said Philippine manufacturers and exporters of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables; processed marine products; ethnic and gourmet products; non-alcoholic beverages; confectionery, biscuits, and pastries; and other food and beverage categories will represent the country in the exhibition.

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