DTI to ask EU to calendar continuation of free trade talks

By Kris Crismundo

August 24, 2018, 6:04 pm

MANILA -- The Philippine government is set to formally ask the European Union (EU) to schedule the third round of negotiations for the Philippine-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the country’s top trade official revealed.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that his office is writing the EU to seek the revival of the FTA discussions, which have been stalled in the past 18 months. “We are optimistic that there might be renewed interest on the discussion,” Lopez said.

“What we are just saying is we actively again look for the schedule to continue the discussion,” he added.

Exploratory talks for a possible Philippines-EU FTA began in 2013. Formal negotiations started in May 2016 in Brussels, while the second round of talks was held in Cebu City in February 2017.

The Cebu meeting among trade officials of the Philippines and the EU was also the last round of negotiations for the proposed free trade deal. Lopez said that meeting ended with no certainty as to when the next round of negotiations would happen.

The trade chief said the Philippines will pursue FTA discussions with the EU, while also exploring a similar deal with the United States. Lopez said an FTA with the EU serves Philippine interests, which will gain a “more permanent trading arrangement mainly for our exportables like marine products, agriculture-based (products), and furniture.”

From the Philippine side, there are seven text proposals including those in the areas of services, investment, trade, and sustainable development. The EU submitted nine proposals – those on rules of origin, competition, small and medium-sized enterprises, custom and trade facilitation, state-owned enterprises, intellectual property, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, public procurement, and trade remedies.

While eyeing for a region-to-region free trade deal with the 10 member states of the ASEAN, the EU is also pursuing bilateral FTA with these nations.
The EU already has free trade deals with Singapore and Vietnam, while negotiations remain pending with the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. “It’s good that we are talking about enhancing trade, FTA arrangements, while others are talking about trade war,” Lopez said in Filipino.

Data from the EU showed that bilateral trade with the Philippines in 2016 reached 12.81 billion euros.

About 90 percent of the EU-Philippines trade is with nine member states -- Germany, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, and Austria. (PNA)