MANILA: The Philippines and the European Union have successfully conducted the first round of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said here the other day.
Over 50 Filipino officials from different departments met with their EU counterparts in Brussels late last month.
“The FTA will further reinforce the economic partnership between the Philippines and the EU by improving duty-free market access and promoting investments,” DTI said.
Since December 2014, the Philippines has been a beneficiary country of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences-Plus arrangement which has provided duty-free access to the EU for over 6,000 Philippine products.
DTI said that the FTA, supported by commitments on sustainable development, will also mean more jobs for many Filipinos, as well as better chances for inclusive growth and development.
The first round of FTA talks took place after the simultaneous announcement in December last year by then Philippine Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom that negotiations for a PH-EU FTA would begin.
The EU is one of the Philippines’ top trading partners and sources of investments. In 2015, the EU ranked as the Philippines’ fourth trading partner, with total trade amounting to 13.84 billion U.S. dollars or over 10 percent of total Philippine trade with the world, amounting to 125.33 billion U.S. dollars.
It is also the largest foreign investor in the Philippines, with a foreign direct investment stock of over 366 billion pesos (7.87 billion U.S. dollars).