Implementation of EFTA-Phl FTA faces delay
Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - June 4, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Pending internal procedures has prevented the Philippines from implementing preferential tariffs for products originating in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states on time.

The EFTA-Philippines Free Trade Agreement was supposed to enter into force last Friday.

“The Philippines has communicated that the EFTA-Philippines free trade agreement, which entered into force on June 1 for the Philippines, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, is currently not being applied by local authorities in the Philippines, due to pending internal procedures,” the EFTA said in a statement posted on its website.

“Preferential treatment for products originating in the EFTA States is therefore not granted in the Philippines for the time being,” the bloc, composed of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, said.

The EFTA-Philippines FTA was ratified by the Senate of the Philippines last March 5 during its third reading. The FTA will be effective three months after its ratification in the Philippines and at least one EFTA member state.

The agreement, which is the Philippines’ second bilateral FTA after the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement in 2008, will allow duty-free market access between the Philippines and the EFTA member states to trade products and services and facilitate investments. 

EFTA said it is following up on the issue very closely and making all efforts to solve the problem with the Philippines as soon as possible.

“Exporters and importers of goods originating in an EFTA State are nevertheless encouraged to try to obtain preferential treatment upon import into the Philippines by claiming such treatment and by providing the necessary documentation, also with a view to obtain possible reimbursement of unduly levied customs duties at a later stage,” it said.

Sought for comments regarding the delay, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a text message that “some corrections (were) made on implementing memo.”

Once the FTA is in place, EFTA will grant duty-free market access to all industrial and fishery products from the Philippines.

The country will also gain tax incentives on agricultural products, particularly those that are currently being exported to the EFTA member states such as desiccated coconut, prepared or preserved pineapples, and raw cane sugar.

In return, the Philippines will also grant EFTA countries duty-free market access on most industrial and fishery products as well as market access on goods such as temperate fruits, mineral and aerated waters, food preparations, chocolate, cheese, and wine.

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