PH eyes trans-Pacific deal, EU free trade

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    The Philippines has expressed its commitment to pursue a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) and pledged to maximize the benefits of its duty-free privileges from the bloc.

    Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez in a statement said he had a meeting  on December 8 with European Commission executive president Valdis Dombrovskis where he expressed the
    Philippines is now setting its sights on the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CTPP) following the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.

    Lopez said he told Dombrovskis the Philippines is ready to engage the EU in constructive dialogue with the conduct of a technical mission early next year on its GSP+ privileges, acknowledging the continued entitlement of such privileges hinge on the implementation of  27 international core conventions.

    “Our meeting … is indicative of the country’s continuing strong ties with the EU, and we hope to push for deeper trade and investment engagements by maximizing the benefits from the GSP+ and through a possible FTA with them,” said Lopez.

    DTI reiterated the importance of GSP+ to the country’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as small communities, in the wake of the economic challenges posed by the new coronavirus disease 2019  pandemic.

    The meeting comes ahead of  the convening of the Sub-Committee of Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation under the PH-EU Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) next year. Under the sub-committee, both sides are expected to discuss the negotiations for a bilateral FTA between the Philippines and the EU.

    “There is a strong call from the business sector to continue the PH-EU FTA negotiations. There is a big opportunity for EU businesses to expand here in the Philippines—not just to access our huge domestic market, but equally important is to use the Philippines as a base for export manufacturing to access the Regional Comprehensive Economic  Partnership market,” Lopez said.

    Aside from the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU  and the Philippines, Dombrovskis also highlighted the establishment of the EU-Asean Strategic Partnership on December 1.

    The  EU-PH PCA entered into force in March 2018, strengthened ties in political, social, and economic matters but the EU-Asean Strategic Partnership elevates the ties of the two blocs, based on shared values and principles such as rules-based international order, effective and sustainable multilateralism, and free and fair trade, with a commitment to regular summits at leaders’ levels.