1 FTA deal before Aquino ends Palace term–DTI
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.