Marcos pushes for PH-EU free trade amid COVID-19 recovery
GMA News Online - 14 December 2022
Marcos pushes for PH-EU free trade amid COVID-19 recovery
By Richa Noriega
President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. on Wednesday made a pitch for a free trade agreement between the Philippines and the European Union to shore up economic recovery following the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During his speech at the Commemorative Summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union in Belgium, Marcos said he hopes to see the proposed PH-EU free trade agreement move beyond negotiations stage.
“I look forward to closer economic cooperation both on our bilateral and bloc to bloc relations at this time of economic recovery from the ravages caused by the pandemic and the current threats on the supply chain,” Marcos said.
“I hope to see the proposed Philippine-EU free trade agreement move beyond scoping negotiations soon. With the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) among Asia-Pacific countries the European Union misses out on the benefit of having a similar agreement with ASEAN,” he said.
The RCEP is a free trade agreement first floated in August 2012, covering members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its partners Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
The President said he is looking forward to the closer cooperation and continued partnership between the Philippines and the EU for the benefit of the people.
“We encourage the EU to calibrate the scope and coverage of its proposed free trade agreement to what is currently possible for ASEAN to collectively agree on so we can make concrete progress on the negotiations on the ASEAN-EU free trade agreement,” Marcos said.
“Likewise, I look forward to closer cooperation and to the continued implementation of the Philippine and EU partnership cooperation agreement for the benefit of our people,” he added.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the exploratory scoping meetings between the Philippines and EU started in 2013.
The DTI said the Philippines’ strategic objectives in engaging the EU in a free trade agreement includes securing additional duty-free market access beyond those covered under the GSP+ scheme and on a permanent basis; providing a conducive framework for attracting greater investments from the EU; and being at par with other ASEAN member states who are aggressively pursuing free trade agreements with the EU.
Among the proposed chapters of the Philippines and EU free trade agreement are trade in goods, rules of origin, customs and trade facilitation, trade in services, investments, government procurement, intellectual property rights, competition, trade and sustainable development, and legal and institutional issues.
Marcos also called for for the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) amid the maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
He urged for a closer maritime cooperation to address the sea row and geo-political rivalry in the Indo-Pacific.
“One, I look forward to closer maritime cooperation between our blocs based on the intersection of priority areas between the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific underpinned by ASEAN centrality,” he said.
“Beyond declaring respect and support for UNCLOS as a legal framework that governs all activities in the oceans and seas, we need to see an effective application of the UNCLOS to address the maritime disputes and geo-political rivalry in the Indo-Pacific to truly realize the still distant aspiration for the Indo-Pacific to become a sea of peace and prosperity for us all,” he added.
To recall, the Philippines challenged China in 2013 over its claims on the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines was successful in its challenge and a landmark ruling by an international tribunal invalidated Beijing’s massive claims in the South China Sea.
China, however, refused to acknowledge the ruling.
Marcos also rallied nations to unite together in order to fight the effects of climate change.
He said climate change threatens to radically transform the “worst” of many vulnerable ASEAN landscapes.
“It is a race against time to conserve and prevent habitat and diverse biodiversity. I encouraged the EU and its member states to continue extending cooperation activities and support for the ACB (ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity),” Marcos said.
“We are currently losing huge chunks of our national resources at rate difficult to repair and impossible to replenish in our lifetime. The ACB’s work is vital in preserving and growing ASEAN’s rich national heritage which serves as a main pillar of our culture and our economy,” he said.
The President said the Philippines will vigorously pursue collaboration and coordination with the EU to meet the dialogues in facilitating green technology transfer and cooperation between the regions.
“There is no problem like climate change that is so global in nature that it requires immediate and united effort. we need to act now, we need to act together, we need to get it right,” he added.
Marcos described as a “clear step forward to promote connectivity” the recent milestones achieved by the ASEAN-EU summit.
He said the meet marked several milestones between ASEAN and EU, citing the adoption of the plan of action to implement the ASEAN-EU Strategic Partnership for 2023-2027 last August.
“We have also signed the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air services agreement, the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement, last October,” Marcos added.
The chief executive said both milestones are “clear commitments from both sides, an active partnership for the post-COVID economic recovery of our region.”
President Marcos also took pride in the Philippines’ role as the coordinator for ASEAN-EU dialog relations as the two blocs mark 45 years of enduring partnership.
“As coordinator of our relations from 2022 to 2024, I assure you of the Philippines’ continuing efforts to sustain successful and vibrant relations between our regions, and as always the case, we are stronger together than we are alone,” he said.