logo logo

Hungary’s EU presidency to back ‘quick’ FTA talks with PH: FM

PNA | 14 June 2024

Hungary’s EU presidency to back ‘quick’ FTA talks with PH: FM

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

MANILA – Hungary, as the incoming president of the Council of the European Union (EU), will push for the early conclusion of the bloc’s free trade agreement talks with the Philippines, its visiting foreign minister said Thursday.

In a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo in Makati City, Hungarian Foreign and Trade Minister Péter Szijjárto said his country’s EU presidency intends to concentrate on accelerating the bloc’s free trade negotiations with countries across Asia.

“We are interested in a quick conclusion of the negotiations,” he said. “Since your GSP (Generalized Scheme of Preferences) plus status is exceeding in 2027, we should conclude negotiations beforehand.”

Hungary is set to assume on July 1 the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, one of the most important institutions within the bloc.

This grouping, which is different from the EU Council, consists of one government minister from each member state and is tasked to negotiate and adopt EU legislation.

Szijjárto said it would be in the interest of EU states to improve the “East-West” economic cooperation rather than restrict the relations with customs measures, citing Asia, especially Southeast Asia, as among the “most rapidly emerging regions of the world.”

“Hungary is on the side of free trade. We see the many advantages brought forward by free trade, especially for those countries like Hungary, which are having open economies – one of the 10 most open ones in the world, a country where export over GDP ratio has reached 85 percent,” he said.

“So, during the Hungarian presidency, instead of introducing customs, we will concentrate on accelerating the free trade negotiations of the EU with Asia and especially with the Southeast Asian countries, like the free trade negotiations between the Philippines and the EU.”

Negotiations for an EU-Philippine FTA were stalled in 2017 less than two years after its launch when the bloc raised concerns on humanitarian issues in the Philippines.

Szijjárto described this as the EU “wanting to confuse non-trade-related things with trade.”

“We are against this approach. So, we decided to restart the negotiations on free trade between the Philippines and the European Union,” he said.

He assured that during Hungary’s EU presidency, “many rounds of negotiations will take place” and that they would make sure that the free trade deal “will only be about trade.”

“We will make sure that the free trade agreement will be only about trade and not about other political issues because if the European Union wants to continue to confuse non-trade-related things under the umbrella of so-called human rights free trade, then we will only trade with ourselves and this is not really what we want,” he said.

Manalo, meanwhile, said Manila looks forward to speeding up the negotiations on the deal and thanked Hungary for its support.

He said he expects increased collaboration among the EU, ASEAN, and the Philippines as Hungary assumes the presidency, especially on the promotion of international law, investment, and climate change, among others.

“We think it’s very important for many reasons, not only to increase the economic cooperation between the Philippines and EU but to provide greater focus on economic security and resilience, not only for the Philippines, but also for the EU,” Manalo said.

“We hope to build on this cooperation, especially in the face of today’s geopolitical realities and geo-economic realities and the great potential that emerge from the EU cooperation.”

 source: PNA