DTI consults stakeholders for PH-EFTA trade agreement

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will consult with stakeholders on the country’s trade engagement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) on 10 November 2015. The consultation aims to discuss with stakeholders the status of trade negotiations between the Philippines and EFTA. Members of the business sector and civil society organizations are expected to participate in the PH-EFTA consultation.

The consultation will discuss FTA issues, which includes technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, trade facilitation, intellectual property rights, public procurement, competition, and trade and sustainable development.

“Our goal is to maximize benefits of our trade agreements with Europe. An FTA with EFTA is a logical next step to expand market access of the Philippines in the continent,“ DTI Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr said.

EFTA is an important global economic player and trading partner of the Philippines.  In 2014, the total commodity trade between EFTA States and the country amounted to around USD 636 Million. Meanwhile, total foreign direct investments in the Philippines’ from the EFTA states has increased steadily in the last few years.  EFTA-based multinational companies have also set up several joint ventures in the Philippines focusing on electrical equipment, chemicals, industrial machinery, mechanical/engineering industries, and pharmaceuticals sectors.

The Philippines is aggressively pursuing trade with Europe utilizing regional and bilateral modalities. The country is currently in negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a possible free trade agreement and has successfully gained beneficiary country status for the EU-Generalized System of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+). EU-GSP+ is a preferential tariff scheme, which allows the Philippines to export more than 6,000 products to any EU member country tariff free. To maximize benefits of the EU-GSP+, the DTI has also been conducting information sessions with the business sector in key cities in the country to prepare businesses, including micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to participate in the preferential scheme.

Recently, the Philippines and France revived its Joint Economic Commission to deepen trade ties between the two countries.
The PH-EFTA consultation is an initiative under the One Country, One Voice (OCOV) program, the government’s consultative mechanism for stakeholder participation in trade policy formulation. The DTI is also scheduled to consult with stakeholders to discuss the status of free trade agreement negotiations with EU.

Launched in 2011, OCOV facilitates transparency and accountability as government undertakes the process of engaging in dialogues, building mutual trust, and arriving at rational, sound, and balanced trade policies in pursuit of national development. (END)