The European Union and the Philippines have announced their intention to explore the relaunch of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA). The two partners are expected to kick off a bilateral ‘scoping process’ to assess their mutual understanding of the future FTA.
Trade in goods between the EU and the Philippines was worth €18.4 billion in 2022, and in services, was worth €4.7 billion.
Furthermore, the EU is the Philippines’ fourth-largest trade partner, and the country is the fifth-largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The country recorded the second-highest growth in ASEAN with 7.6 per cent in 2022, and the EU’s foreign direct investment in the Philippines reached €13.7 billion in 2021.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, said, “the Philippines is a key partner for us in the Indo-Pacific region, and with the launch of this scoping process we are paving the way to taking our partnership to the next level.”
“Together, we will realise the full potential of our relationship, creating new opportunities for our companies and consumers while also supporting the green transition and fostering a just economy.”
The EU’s goal is for a comprehensive FTA which includes market access commitments, swift and effective sanitary and phytosanitary procedures, and the protection of intellectual property rights, including Geographical Indications. Furthermore, it will seek to set out high levels of protection for workers’ rights, for the environment.
Currently the country enjoys trade preferences under the EU’s generalised scheme of preferences + (GSP+), a special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance which grants duty-free access to the EU market for two-thirds of tariff lines.
The country is also a hotspot for natural resources, being host to major reserves of critical raw materials such as nickel, copper and chromite which are vital for manufacturing, especially for green technologies.
The EU and the Philippines first launched negotiations for an FTA in 2015. The last negotiating round took place in 2017 and negotiations have since been on hold. On 30 June 2022, a new administration assumed office in the country and the EU Commission said it has shown willingness to engage with the EU on key issues of importance.
To date the EU has FTAs with two ASEAN countries, namely Singapore and Vietnam. In addition to the Philippines, it also conducting negotiations with Thailand and is carrying out a scoping exercise with Malaysia.
Featured Image: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Philippines Bongbong Marcos via Twitter
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