Manila Bulletin - 2 October 2022
DTI calls for resumption of PH-EU FTA nego
By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Philippines has expressed its readiness to resume negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union and the planned visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Brussels in December this year could help advance the trade deal negotiation.
Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty conveyed the Philippine government’s sentiment for resumption of talks during a virtual dialogue with Trade Counsellor Eduardo Bryant of the Permanent Representation of Spain to the EU on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
“The upcoming ASEAN EU Summit and the visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Brussels in December will be another opportunity to convey positive signals and clear policy direction,” Gepty said.
In the meantime, Gepty said the DTI is waiting for EU’s decision on when to resume the bilateral FTA talks.
At the same meeting, Gepty also advised the EU that Philippines intends to maintain its current status in the EU Generalized Scheme Preferences Plus (GSP+) as it prepares for reapplication to the new scheme.
The GSP+ offers zero tariff on over 6,000 export products (tariff lines) from the Philippines, giving local exporters to EU competitive edge against competitors in the region.
During the meeting, Gepty highlighted that the EU-GSP+ not only has granted preferential access to Philippine exporters, but it has also transformed communities and provided livelihoods in the country.
In September last year, the EU Commission published its proposal for a new EU GSP. Two of the current scheme’s three components, including the GSP+, are due to expire at the end of 2023, which would deprive developing countries of a vital opportunity to trade under preferential
terms with the EU.
Therefore, renewing the scheme appears to be both a necessity and an opportunity to strengthen its conditionality in the light of lessons learned and the increased urgency for dealing with the climate.
EU said that the scheme has delivered on its objectives, but it needs some “fine-tuning”. To ensure that its benefits remain broadly shared, it proposes changes to the economic vulnerability criteria for the special incentive strand of the scheme GSP+ and to the product
graduation threshold for Standard GSP.
EU Commission has proposed to extend negative conditionality to environmental and good governance conventions, and to improve monitoring and stakeholders’ involvement overall.
Gepty was joined in the meeting by Commercial Counsellor Magnolia Misolas-Ashley and Trade Policy Advisor Maria Tereza Borja of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Brussels, and other DTI staff.
In terms of bilateral trade with Spain, Gepty said that in 2021, Spain is the Philippines’ top 5 GSP+ export destination and top 5 overall export destination among the 27 EU Member States. Exports to Spain amounted to EUR 304.889M. Out of this amount, EUR193.139M are GSP+ eligible. GSP+ exports reached EUR 157.023M yielding a utilization rate of 81.30 percent.
Spain will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second half of 2023.