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EU-ASEAN FTA Network statement on the signing of Joint Declaration on Cooperation between the Philippines and EFTA

EU-ASEAN FTA Network | 4 July 2014

EU-ASEAN FTA Network Statement on the Signing of Joint Declaration on Cooperation (JDC) between the Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

JDC a prelude to more ambitious FTA

The signing of the Joint Declaration on Cooperation between the Philippines and the European Free Trade Association or EFTA is a prelude to an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement with EFTA and eventually with the European Union (EU) as well.

Much like the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed with EU in 2012, the JDC sets the framework for cooperation on a range of economic issues covering not just trade in goods and services but in other areas like government procurement, intellectual property rights, and investments.

While lesser known compared to the EU, EFTA which is comprised of Norway, Switzerland, Lichenstein and Iceland, has in fact been more active in pursuing economic agreements compared to the EU having concluded around 24 FTAs with 33 countries.

Compared to EU’s new generation FTAs which go well beyond traditional trade issues in goods and services, EFTA’s trade deals focus on market access in key areas of interest to EFTA economies, mainly industrial and agricultural products, and services.

Over the last few years however the scope of EFTA’s agreements have become so much broader as well. EFTA’s FTA with Hong Kong concluded in 2011 covers a wide range of areas including trade in goods and services, as well as investment, and other trade-related issues such as protection of intellectual property.

The deal with our ASEAN neighbor Singapore, which entered into force more than a decade ago, already covered trade in services, investment and related areas, such as public procurement, competition and protection of intellectual property rights.

Furthermore, taking its cue from the EU and its new generation FTAs, EFTA is eyeing an upgrade of its existing FTAs to include stricter IPR regime and stronger investor protection provisions including the controversial investor to state dispute settlement mechanism, which are trademark provisions of so called 21st Century trade agreements.

EFTA is now considering scaling-up their agreement with South Korea, taking into consideration some of the elements conceded by South Korea under the EU-South Korea deal.

We are concerned that the Philippine government will commit the country once again to deeper liberalization particularly in the areas of export interest to EFTA countries like fish and other marine products, pharmaceutical products and services without presenting to the public a clear cost-benefit analysis of future concessions particularly on vulnerable sectors like small fishers, and workers.

We are concerned that the government under the JDC would open the door for more and much deeper economic concessions under an ambitious new generation FTA with EFTA with very little consideration of the issues raised against such highly ambitious agreements and their economic, social and environmental impacts.

We are also concerned that the EU will soon follow after EFTA to claim at least the same concessions as offered to EFTA and a lot more.#


Joseph Purugganan

 source: EU-ASEAN FTA Network