A stronger economic engagement with the European Union (EU) has been and will continue to be a Philippine (PH) priority, according to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, speaking at the EU-PH Business Summit on 4 October.
The Summit, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of EU-PH partnership, witnessed the gathering of the private sector from both countries.
"I look at the relationship between the Philippines and the European Union as a long-term strategy," said EU Ambassador to PH Franz Jessen, hoping that both countries work together to ensure positive results.
The EU ranked as PH's fourth largest trading partner with two-way trade amounting to USD 13.88 billion in 2015. In the same year, the EU's foreign direct investment in the country reached USD 330.64 million, significantly contributing to employment generation, technology transfer and improved productivity.
GSP+, EU-PH FTA
Sec. Lopez underscored the benefits received by PH from the EU's Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) largely on improved market access, which led to the 19% growth of PH exports to the EU, from USD 6.3 billion in 2014 to USD 7.5 billion in 2015.
The EU's GSP+ is a scheme that permits developing countries to pay less or no duties on their exports to the EU, thus providing them greater access to EU markets.
On the PH-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Sec. Lopez said that it will not only ensure that preferences under the GSP+ are maintained, but will also further expand the scope of market access for goods, services and investments. The next round of negotiation is scheduled in December.
"The PH-EU FTA scoping paper is reflective of both sides' common vision for this agreement which is to have a mutually-beneficial FTA," said Sec. Lopez, adding that such an FTA should anchor on the strengths of each economy, recognize domestic sensitivities and consider differences in the levels of economic development of the parties.
Duterte's 10-point agenda
The trade chief reiterated that the establishment of an FTA with the EU complements President Rodrigo Duterte's 10-point socio-economic agenda, specifically on increasing competitiveness and improving market access; promoting rural and value chain development through enterprises; investing in human capital development; promoting science, technology, creative arts and innovation; and accelerating infrastructure spending.
He said that the country builds on the successes of major reforms and continues to work with government agencies in ensuring that regulatory procedures in doing business are streamlined, including targeting 2-3 completion days for business permit and licensing system.
The EU, through its Trade-Related Technical Assistance (TRTA), has also been collaborating with various government agencies in the development of agricultural and enterprise sectors.
The TRTA also capacitates the Philippines to develop and implement a National Quality Infrastructure Strategy.
Strengthening PH-EU ties
"We remain committed to a sustained trade engagement with the EU through the GSP+ and the ongoing FTA negotiations," said Sec. Lopez, emphasizing that the Philippines is poised to further enhance its macroeconomic fundamentals to take the lead in the regional growth.
He also expressed high hopes that collaborations such as cross border investments will be strengthened as investors look at long-term business policy environment and investment opportunities. These will result in the further development of PH-EU economic ties.
"We encourage the EU to partner with the Philippines in pursuing pro-people economic initiatives and programs," he concluded.
Source: Philippine Information Agency