PH strengthens ties with Europe

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    The Philippines will continue to strengthen its relations with Europe —  the United Kingdom and to the European Union (EU) — through unilateral and bilateral trade schemes.

    Ramon Lopez, secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry  said the  first meeting of the Sub-Committee on Trade, Investment, and Economic Cooperation was successfully conducted on Friday between the EU and the Philippines  which he regards as a “meaningful step forward, as there is more openness to continuing the engagement. “

    “Notwithstanding the pandemic, the Philippines and EU are committed to continue their exchange of views on economic reforms and discuss issues necessary to further enhance their trade and investment relations,” Lopez said in a text message to reporters.

    Lopez said the Sub Committee is also a good platform to pursue more cooperation, and EU is ready to provide capacity building through existing programs including technical assistance regarding their new regulations/policies.

    “EU is the fourth largest trading partner, fourth export market, and thidrd import supplier of the Philippines, thus, engagement like this builds confidence for our businesses and investors,” Lopez said.

    With both sides committed to having FTA, Lopez said the dialogue must continue, including the  conduct of confidence-building monitoring missions under Generalize System of Preferences (GSP) Plus.

    British ambassador to the Philippines in a forum on Friday said the UK will implement its GSP starting Jan. 1, 2021 covering the same countries under the EU’s GSP including the Philippines for trade preferences.

    UK is implementing its own GSP after its  official exit from the EU last Dec. 31,  2020.

    Under this scheme, importers pay lower (often zero) tariffs on goods from seventy developing countries.

    Pruce said the UK trade minister to rollover the terms of GSP Plus into a national enhanced framework with the same terms and conditions when UK was still with EU.

    “This means a third of Philippine exports to the UK  will enter at preferential tariffs,” Pruce added.

    Pruce said trade between the Philippines and the UK were hit by the pandemic with UK exports falling  3 percent to  2.1 billion pounds as of the second quarter of 2020 and  UK imports down by 6.2 percent to 1 billion pounds also in the same period.