1 FTA deal be­fore Aquino ends Palace term–DTI

Business Mirror - - NEWS - Cather­ine N. Pil­las

THE Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try ( DTI) is stick­ing to its goal to con­clude at least one free-trade agree­ment ( FTA) be­fore the end of Pres­i­dent Aquino’s Palace term

The DTI said in a news state­ment re­leased on Fri­day that the Philip­pines is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing with at least three free-trade ini­tia­tives with the Euro­pean Free Trade As­so­ci­a­tion (EFTA) FTA, which it said, is the clos­est one to com­ple­tion.

“We have made sub­stan­tial progress in key ar­eas of com­ple­men­ta­tion and are op­ti­mistic that we can sign the agree­ment be­fore June this year,” ac­cord­ing to Trade Un­der­sec­re­tary for In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Ce­ferino S. Rodolfo.

EFTA, which is com­posed of mem­ber economies Switzer­land, Liecht­en­stein, Nor­way and Ice­land, con­cluded its fifth round of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Philip­pines early this month.

Prior to the ne­go­ti­a­tions, the DTI con­ducted eight con­sul­ta­tions on a pos­si­ble PHL-EFTA free-trade agree­ment.

If the DTI con­cludes the said agree­ment by June 2016, it would be the coun­try’s se­cond FTA, and first un­der the Aquino ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the DTI, the top Philip­pine ex­ports to the EFTA coun­tries in­clude 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, parts of air­planes or he­li­copters and wrist­watches.

“Im­prov­ing mar­ket ac­cess with Europe through EFTA will en­cour­age in­vest­ments in the ser­vices and non-ser­vices sec­tor, bring in high val­ueadded prod­ucts, tech­no­log­i­cal know-how and cap­i­tal from their highly de­vel­oped economies to our lo­cal econ­omy,” Rodolfo added.

With the Philip­pines hav­ing gained pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for its ex­ports through the Euro­pean Union Gen­er­al­ized Sys­tem of Pref­er­ences Plus (EUGSP+), the coun­try can fur­ther ce­ment its ad­van­tage by se­cur­ing an FTA.

“Right now, most Philip­pine prod­ucts have duty free ac­cess to the EU through the EU- GSP+. We are tar­get­ing a more per­ma­nent and long term re­la­tion­ship through the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with EFTA,” Rodolfo said.

Philip­pine ex­ports to the EU have in­creased by 27 per­cent in the first half of 2015 due to the pref­er­en­tial scheme.

The Philip­pines is also ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in ne­go­ti­a­tions on the Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship.

Rodolfo said that the DTI will con­tinue tech­ni­cal con­sul­ta­tions with the rest of the Trans- Pa­cific Part­ner­ship mem­ber coun­tries in­clud­ing Chile, Peru, Ja­pan and Viet­nam.

In 2015 tech­ni­cal con­sul­ta­tions were held with Canada and Mex­ico fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tions with the United States, Malaysia, Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

The DTI is also eye­ing to con­duct the first round of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Euro­pean Union for an FTA this year af­ter 3 years of be­ing in the scop­ing stage of talks.

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