ELEVATING ASEAN-EU TIES. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Monday (Dec. 14, Brussels time) vows to elevate the relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union will reach greater heights. Marcos made the commitment in a press conference held at the conclusion of the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit plenary in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Press Secretary)

MANILA – The European Council (EC) welcomed President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s push for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) in order to achieve post-pandemic recovery.

This comes after Marcos met with European Council President Ursula Von der Leyen on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-European Union (ASEAN-EU) Commemorative Summit in Belgium, according to a news release from the Office of the Press Secretary.

Aside from the expansion of talks on the proposed PH-EU free trade agreement, Marcos said he is also pursuing the renewal of the Philippines' participation in the European Union's Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+).

Von der Leyen, during the meeting, said the GSP+ "would open the door for much easier start into going into free trade agreement negotiations."

"Let's work on it," Von der Leyen told Marcos.

Marcos was quoted as saying during the Philippines-EU business roundtable in Brussels, Belgium that the Philippines is "the only ASEAN country to benefit from the EU GSP Plus."

The GSP+ is one of the EU’s specialized incentive arrangements for sustainable development and good governance in the form of zero duties.

It is a unilateral trade arrangement which offers zero tariffs on 6,274 products or 66 percent of all EU tariff lines.

Prior to applying for the GSP+, the Philippines was using the Standard GSP. In 2012, the Philippines was the 20th largest user of this scheme out of 140 beneficiaries.

In June of the same year, the EU announced that the Philippines was included in the list of countries eligible to apply for the revised GSP+ program for 2014-2023.

In return, the country is expected to effectively implement 27 international core conventions on labor rights, human rights, good governance and the environment.

"While the Philippines awaits the resumption of the PH-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations, we remain committed to maintain our EU GSP+ beneficiary status, serving as a stepping-stone towards this FTA," Marcos told European business leaders earlier.

"We also have an FTA with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) namely, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, which provides the Philippines duty-free market access to all industrial and fisheries products to the member-states," he said.
The negotiations for the EU-Philippines FTA started in 2016. The last round of negotiations was held in Cebu City in 2017.

Since then, negotiations have been on hiatus.

In his speech during the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit, Marcos vowed to sustain the “successful and vibrant” relations between the two regions.

He also called for ASEAN and EU member-states’ support and cooperation as they chart new paths to further strengthen their partnership. (PNA)