Phl eyes free trade deal with EFTA
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - April 3, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is set to sign a declaration for economic cooperation with ministers of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) by June in preparation for the start of negotiations for a possible free trade agreement with the group.

“We’re hoping to sign the joint declaration by June in Europe. We are just refining the declaration,” Trade undersecretary Adrian Cristobal, Jr. told reporters.

The parties were initially looking to sign the joint declaration within the first quarter.

“It’s a matter of scheduling, a time and place where the four ministers of EFTA countries and our Secretary of Trade and Industry can meet,” Cristobal said.

The joint declaration, Cristobal said, would serve as basis to continue the discussions and eventual negotiations, if feasible, for a free trade agreement.

The EFTA is an intergovernmental organization which seeks to promote free trade and economic integration of its four member states – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

In 2011, the EFTA expressed interest to enter into a free trade agreement with the Philippines.

Citing initial studies of the Department of Trade and Industry, Cristobal had said the EFTA’s member states have huge corporations which the country could attract for investments.

“EFTA states are obviously not big markets for our products, but they are rich markets for particular niche high-end products. I think our main interest is to attract investments, their huge corporations that can bring in technological know-how as well as capital to invest in our industries, in our economy,” he said.

Aside from the EFTA, the Philippines is also interested in a free trade agreement with the European Union.

The Philippines has likewise expressed interest to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement being negotiated by the US and 11 Pacific countries to establish a free trade bloc which would represent more than half of global output and over 40 percent of world trade.

At present, the Philippines has free trade agreements with Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and free trade deals through the ASEAN with China, Korea, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

ADRIAN CRISTOBAL AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND CRISTOBAL DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY EFTA EUROPEAN FREE TRADE ASSOCIATION EUROPEAN UNION FREE JAPAN AND THE ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS TRADE
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