InterAksyon | September 30, 2013
Philippines, 4 northern European countries eye free trade deal
by: Ben Arnold O. De Vera, InterAksyon.com
MANILA — The Philippines and four countries in Europe that are not part of the European Union (EU) are eyeing a free trade deal, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.
Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. told reporters last week that the Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) composed of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland would start by November impact studies as well as technical discussions for a free trade agreement (FTA).
Cristobal said EFTA’s member-countries first expressed interest to pursue a free trade deal with the Philippines on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ministerial meeting in 2011. The visit to the Philippines of Swiss State secretary for economic affairs Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch last June was a follow through to that interest in a Philippine-EFTA trade agreement, Cristobal said.
“They [EFTA members] showed strong interest in an FTA with the Philippines. We’re reciprocating that interest,” he said.
He said the four EFTA countries are seen as an emerging source of foreign direct investment (FDI). “We’re studying closely the potential advantages,” Cristobal said.
He said the Philippine-EFTA trade agreement may “move faster” than the ongoing discussions for an FTA with the EU.
The Philippines and EU remain in scoping talks for a free trade deal, with technical discussions and consultations with stakeholders from both sides yet to wrap up.
On its website, EFTA said it is also “currently engaged in negotiations on free trade agreements” with other Asean members such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. EFTA already has an existing FTA with Singapore. The group is engaged in 26 FTAs involving 36 trading partners.
EFTA was formed in 1960 as “an economic counterbalance to the more politically driven European Economic Community (EEC)” or now more popularly known as the EU.