Inquirer Net - 26 September 2022
Canada prefers FTA with Asean over bilateral deal with Philippines
By: Alden M. Monzon
Canada has expressed preference for a free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) instead of one with the Philippines, dampening the hopes of some groups that a bilateral trade deal between the two countries will be forged.
Peter MacArthur, Canadian ambassador to the Philippines, said this on Tuesday of last week at the sidelines of the press conference during the visit of the north American country’s’ minister of international trade, export promotion, small business and economic development, Mary Ng.
“The focus right now is on the Asean-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA),” MacArthur told the Inquirer, referring to the economic agreement which has been under official negotiations since November last year.
Earlier this month, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Julian Payne said the southeast Asian country should seek a free trade agreement with Canada.
Payne cited it would benefit both countries in terms of tariff reductions.
Historically, Asean has forged collective trade deals with different countries in the past and was successful, but such negotiations were often subjected to prolonged deadlocks due to the need for consensus from multiple members.
Even within the Asean itself are informal coalitions of member states with competing and sometimes incompatible agenda.
Citing Canada’s statistics, Asean said that bilateral trade relations between the two parties remained strong despite the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, with the total two-way merchandise trade reaching $19.9 billion during the said year.
By the end of 2020, the stock of foreign direct investments from Canada to Asean member states stood at $12.5 billion, while the stock of the same from Asean member states to Canada was $1.2 billion.
“The FTA would strengthen Asean-Canada economic relations, connect Asean closer to the global value chains and improve market access for both Asean and Canadian firms,” said Asean Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi in 2021 during the official launch of the negotiations between Canada and the regional bloc.
Last week, Ng highlighted that trade between Canada and the Philippines has grown in the last year, up by more than 30 percent in 2021 totaling about P121.2 billion or 2.8 billion Canadian dollars.
“What this really means in people terms is that trade helps create jobs for both our people, opening up new doors for small businesses and helping each other grow in our economies, which is so important at this time as we are all recovering from COVID-19,” Ng said during a press conference on the last day of her three-day visit.
The Canadian official also said their government would be providing P519.6 million in funding for the Philippines for three key development areas: climate finance, women empowerment and the Bangsamoro Normalization Trust Fund.
Canada has provided P160.2 billion in development funds to the Philippines since the year 2000. INQ