Business World Online - 27 November 2023
EU free trade deal scoping talks seen completed by Dec.
By Justine Irish D. Tabile
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that the free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and the Philippines is currently at the “scoping stage,” which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“We are at the scoping stage. The target is it will be finished before the end of the year,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual told reporters last week.
He said that once the scoping is done, the two parties will then decide whether to pursue FTA negotiations, with both sides needing to come to a “meeting of minds.”
Asked if disagreements have surfaced, he said: “We have not reached that yet.”
Meanwhile, he said that the Philippines still maintains ambitions for an FTA, “but of course the EU also has their own targets and if that matches ours, we will proceed.”
Last week, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron said that the discussions are “on track” as the two sides held a number of meetings to look into the various chapters that will constitute the FTA.
The FTA discussions were relaunched in July after the EU Commission announced its intention to restart talks, which were suspended in 2017.
According to the EU Commission, its goals for a Philippine FTA includes market access commitments, swift and effective sanitary and phyto-sanitary procedures, and protection of intellectual property rights.
The Philippines currently enjoys trade preferences under the EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) which is a special incentive for low and lower middle-income countries. It grants the country zero duties on 6,274 products.
The current arrangement is set to expire by the end of 2023. However, Mr. Veron said that it will be extended for another four years as there was no consensus on the revisions among EU legislators.
On Thursday, the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) welcomed the extension of the GSP+ scheme.
“We appreciate the European Parliament supporting the European Commission’s proposal to renew the scheme for another four years,” ECCP said in a statement.
“The ECCP has strongly advocated for the GSP+ renewal since many European and Filipino firms are benefitting from this scheme,” it added.
According to the ECCP, Philippine exports to Europe under GSP+ were valued at 6.6 billion euros between 2020 and 2022.