The Philippines and Switzerland signed on Friday a memorandum of understanding to put up the Joint Economic Mission, a panel that will be tasked to provide an institutional framework for the regular exchanges between the two countries.
The MOU, was signed by Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch and Philippine Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo, is expected to pave the way for the start of negotiations between the two countries for a bilateral free trade agreement.
The panel will be composed of government and private sector representatives from the Philippines and Switzerland.
The two government officials reportedly held a meeting following the signing to discuss the steps to be undertaken to put JEC into operation and other economic issues affecting bilateral relations between the two countries.
She said the move was part of the Swiss government’s efforts to diversify its export and investment destinations amid the economic difficulties faced by Europe.
She said that one of the main objectives of her visit to the Philippines was to explore the possibility of launching the negotiation process for a free trade agreement between the Philippines and Switzerland.
Fleisch noted that FTAs had helped “promote growth, create value and enhance the competitiveness for both partners.” Enhancing the legal security for investors, she added, would likewise increase the attractiveness of the partner countries as destinations for foreign direct investments.
According to Fleisch, the proposed FTA will not favor or discriminate any specific industry, as it will provide a general framework for boosting trade relations. It will depend now on the private sector on whether or not they will take advantage of the benefits presented by the bilateral agreement that will be agreed upon by both parties.
One of the recommendations that may be put forward for discussion under the FTA is the abolition of duties for industrial products, among others, in both countries, she said.
Fleisch stressed that the Swiss government could not reduce tariffs on agricultural products but it could possibly grant concessions or preferential treatment for certain Philippine products.