Philippines plans to forge more trade deals

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is targeting to have more free trade agreements (FTAs) with various countries as the country continues to work on potential agreements.

In an interview with reporters, Trade Assistant Secretary for Industry Development and Trade Policy Allan Gepty said  there is a need for the   Philippines  to expand its FTA network, adding that the majority of the country’s FTAs are anchored on regional ones such as the ASEAN+1 FTA.

“We are now embarking on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the UAE  and that we are also working on a possible preferential trade agreement with India,” Gepty said.

“In the UAE-CEPA we just basically launched the manifestation, the intent to embark on a comprehensive economic partnership. The next step is for us to work with the terms of reference or the scoping paper for the trade negotiation,” Gepty said.

In June last year, the Philippines signed an investment promotion and protection agreement (IPPA) with the UAE.

The DTI has said  that as part of the IPPA, a Joint Committee on Investment, to be headed by the undersecretaries of the Philippines’ DTI and UAE’s Ministry of Finance, was formed to start investment initiatives and look at areas of cooperation.

“The signing of the IPPA marks an important step in further strengthening the countries’ economic ties, as the countries have also launched the start of the official negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA),” former Trade secretary Ramon Lopez  had said.

Meanwhile, Gepty said that on a regional level, there are also ongoing negotiations with Canada for the ASEAN-CANADA FTA.

“But, again, more than these FTAs and existing negotiations,  for the Philippines, we still have to work on other FTAs bilaterally,” Gepty said.

“Of course we are also consistent  in our push to resume the Philippine-European Union FTA negotiation. We have been advocating also that we have a bilateral FTA with the US and, of course, there are other countries that we are also studying right now,”Gepty said.

The trade official also shared that the country is hoping to sign a free trade deal with South Korea within the first quarter.

In November, DTI Undersecretary and Board of Investments (BOI) managing head Ceferino Rodolfo said the FTA between the two countries was ready to be signed as early as October last year.

“We were foreseeing before that the ASEAN or the APEC meetings would have been a good opportunity for the Secretary to sign this with the South Korean minister, to be witnessed by the leaders,” Rodolfo said.

“But both sides agreed that it should be given the prominence that it deserves, being an FTA between Philippines and Korea.  It  will be best that it should be signed either in Manila or in Seoul,   “Rodolfo added.

Negotiations for the Philippines-South Korea FTA started in June 2019. In October last year, both countries concluded the negotiations for the FTA.

Covered by the negotiations for the FTA are trade in goods, trade remedies, rules of origin, customs procedures and trade facilitation, economic and technical cooperation, competition, and legal and institutional issues.

The final negotiations focused on market access for Philippine bananas and Korean automotive units and parts.

In the negotiations, the Philippines was able to secure elimination of tariffs for its banana exports,  which was previously excluded under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Korea FTA.

In addition, there would be improved access for Philippine processed pineapples to South Korea.

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