Philippines, EU to resume free trade talks this year
MANILA -The Philippines and the European Union (EU) are set to resume this year free trade agreement (FTA) talks, with this round delving into the scope of the prospective trade pact.
Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual revealed this on Monday, citing that the regional bloc had agreed to return to the negotiating table following the Philippines’ nearly three-week European trade mission that was concluded last week.
“When we left, the word they gave us is that the discussions will be scheduled,” Pascual told reporters, adding that he expects in-person negotiations to be set within the year.
“The initial discussion is scoping—what they want, what we want, comparing notes to see if there is a meeting of minds,” he added.
Pascual added that there had been talks about a possible Philippine-EU FTA back in 2015 and 2017, but both sides were unable to arrive at a conclusion.
He reiterated the importance of closing this deal with the country’s fourth largest regional trading partner despite exports already enjoying zero duties under the EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP Plus) program.
“The GSP Plus, we are only eligible as long as we are a lower, middle-income country. But our expectation is that within three years, by 2025, we will become an upper, middle-income country, in which case, we will become ineligible to avail of the benefits under the GSP Plus,” he said.
Pascual said the local export industry would be disrupted if there is still no FTA in place by then.
Under the EU GSP Plus preferential trading scheme, over 6,000 Philippine goods are tariff-free until end-2023. INQ