Gov’t seeks breakthrough in trade deal with Europe
PHILIPPINE Trade officials are embarking on a roadshow to Europe this month for a series of cooperation meetings, including the possible signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (Efta).
Trade Secretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. said last week they would be flying to Switzerland for a joint economic commission meeting with their counterparts. The meeting was aimed at building on the bilateral cooperation between the two countries that began in 2013.
Trade Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado, meanwhile, would also be going to Europe this month for “trade promotion [and possibly] back-to-back with the Efta signing.”
“We’re going to be in Switzerland, Netherlands and Czech Republic. We’re still thinking which other countries to visit, and how to string it,” Terrado said.
Trade officials, however, were mum on whether the signing of an FTA with the Efta, composed of four member states Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland, would push through this month.
Cristobal said the FTA was still being finalized following the fifth and last round of negotiations in February. Results of that meeting showed the Philippines and Efta are nearing the signing of the FTA.
Having an agreement with Efta is deemed strategic as these countries, while small, are rich and can be a significant source of trade, investment and technology. Improving market access to Europe will encourage investments in the services and non-services sector.
Total commodity trade between the Efta countries and the Philippines has been growing steadily over the last years, showing an increase of 40 percent from 2011 to 2015. Total trade in 2015 alone reached $863 million.
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