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Philippines: Talk deal set with EFTA

Posted on April 02, 2014 11:05:57 PM

Talk deal set with EFTA

AN AGREEMENT that will spur further talks on a possible trade arrangement between the Philippines and the four-member European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is expected to be signed in June, a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) official said. “We’re hoping to sign the Joint Declaration of Cooperation in June in Europe. We are just now refining the declaration,” DTI Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr. told reporters in a chance interview in Makati City.

“It [joint declaration] will be a basis for continued discussions if a trade deal is feasible,” Mr. Cristobal said.

EFTA is composed of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

The trade official had said last year that talks about a possible free trade agreement (FTA) with EFTA began during the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Geneva in 2011 but were “fast-tracked” by the visit to the Philippines of Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs Marie-Gabrielle Ineichein-Fleisch in June last year.

DTI Secretary Gregory L. Domingo and Ms. Ineichen-Fleisch had signed then a memorandum of understanding to start dialogues for a potential FTA between the two countries which, if approved, could be the Philippines’ first such agreement with a European country.

Currently, the Philippines has only one bilateral FTA, the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement.

However, as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines also enjoys the body’s economic agreements with Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

Apart from EFTA, the Philippines is also looking to forge an FTA with the 28-member European Union (EU).

The Philippines and the EU are presently at the scoping stage, or determining which sectors will be part of an FTA.

Mr. Domingo had said in February that the government was proposing the inclusion of tuna and garments in the said trade deal. — Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag

 source: Business World