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Amid Duterte rants, EU demand for Philippine products nearly doubles

MANILA, Philippines — Amid President Duterte’s frequent tirades against the European Union, Philippine exports to the bloc remain on an upswing, indicating continued strong trade ties.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said yesterday exports from the Philippines to the EU could exceed $10 billion this year, nearly doubling from $6.78 billion in 2016.

 “We see a lot of agri food products increasing their volume, and then there’s the strong growth in Europe.. It (the target) is very large because of the very high growth rate. In fact, we are the fastest growing export market for the Philippines among any of your markets,” Jessen said.

The EU ranked as the fourth biggest export market of the Philippines in 2016. Recently, it has been a frequent target of Duterte’s rants over its criticisms on his war on drugs.

Despite the verbal attacks directed by Duterte to the EU and the political noises in the country, Jessen said the trade figures between Philippines and the EU remain impressive.

In the first half of 2017 alone, Jessen said Philippine exports to the EU have increased 36 percent to $4.6 billion.

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“This makes the EU the second largest export market for Filipino exporters. Particularly strong growth can be seen in sectors benefitting from the GSP+ trade preferences, such as agri-food,” Jessen said.

“Since the end of 2014, the Philippines has enjoyed GSP+ status and we are seeing how exporters increasingly are using this special benefit extended to the Philippines. In this context, the EU continues to grow its importance as a major trade partner for the Philippines. Our bilateral relations will continue to support the Philippine development agenda,” he added.

The EU-GSP+ allows the country to export 6,274 eligible products duty-free to the EU market.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), for its part, agrees with Jessen’s bullish outlook on Philippine-EU trade for this year.

“Basing on its strong first half growth of 36 percent, we expect exports to the EU to remain robust, also because of the stable economic environment in the EU,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said.

Rodolfo said there are currently 2,259 Filipino exporters to the EU, with top export merchandise that include electronics, printers and aerospace products.

He said the DTI is also continuously undertaking advocacy campaign for the better utilization of the EU-GSP+ among exporters, particularly those in the rural communities.

Last year, the DTI said EU-GSP+ utilization among exporters has improved to 71 percent.

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