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PH well positioned for free trade deal with EU

Philippine Daily Inquirer

PH well positioned for free trade deal with EU

Dutch envoy sees potential for more economic ties

By Amy R. Remo

10 November 2013

The Philippines is now in a position to start working on free trade agreements with the European Union, according to the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport).

Dutch ambassador Ton Boon von Ochssée was quoted by Philexport as saying that “international business, I think, is where the Philippines belongs.”

Von Ochssée said that among the areas of cooperation that can be discussed between the EU and the Philippines includes the economy, environment and social approaches, which are important to the business community.

“If you look at the Philippines by its growing population (and) growing business, you have to be more mindful about the environment, more mindful about the social aspects,” von Ochssée said in the Philexport statement.

Dutch firms, in particular, have also expressed keen interest in taking advantage of the collaboration opportunities with local companies, specifically in the fields of energy, agriculture, water, and water management. The Netherlands and the Philippines can boost knowledge and technology exchange to expand partnership, von Ochssée added.

The Philippine government has been pursuing efforts that would allow it to strategically position itself to further boost trade and investments with Europe.

These efforts include moves to start negotiating for free trade agreements with the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and to apply for qualification under the European Union’s new Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) scheme or GSP+.

A Philippine delegation is expected to fly to Brussels this month to discuss these matters. It remains to be seen, however, if the local business community is prepared for or keen on an FTA with the EU.

Data from the EU showed that EU-Philippines trade declined by 4 percent to 9.9 billion euros in 2012, due partly to global slowdown in the electronics sector.

At 9.9 billion euros, however, EU-Philippines trade is nearly back to its pre-crisis level in 2007, according to the EU.

In terms of bilateral trade in 2012 between the 27 EU member states with the Philippines, three out of the Philippines’ six main EU trade partners (namely Germany, Netherlands, France, UK, Italy and Belgium) registered trade surpluses, while 17 registered trade deficits.

In terms of foreign direct investments, the EU remains the largest investment partner of the Philippines with its total stock of investments rising further to 7.6 billion euros as of end-2011.

The EU is also the fifth largest host of land-based migrant Filipinos and remains the largest employer of Filipino seafarers. Filipino migrants living and working in the EU as well as Filipino seafarers manning European ships, together sent $2.8 billion (2 billion euros) to the Philippines in 2012, making the EU the second largest source of remittances to the Philippines.

Also, the EU remained the fifth largest source of tourists to the Philippines in 2012, with the number of EU tourists reaching a record 349,000 and an increase of 10 percent in 2012, EU data further showed.