PH, EFTA to sign free trade pact

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Malaya | 25 April 2016

PH, EFTA to sign free trade pact

The Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) will sign anytime this week the free trade agreement between the two, the country’s second bilateral FTA after the one with Japan.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will receive notice today on the schedule of the signing.

Adrian Cristobal Jr., DTI secretary, will sign the agreement in Bern, Switzerland in behalf of the Philippines. He expects the authority to sign anytime soon.

Cristobal sees the FTA with EFTA as significant since it is comprehensive in nature, even more than the Japan-Philippines economic partnership agreement whose provisions are mostly for cooperation.

“This EFTA… the text is longer and more comprehensive in scope,” said Cristobal,noting the impact of this agreement, like previous FTAs, will be felt in a year or two.

“Our strategy was to ramp up marketing and promotion along with actual negotiations; we’ve been conducting seminars and workshops, organizing missions on the EFTA market. That’s what we’re doing now,” Cristobal added.

He intends to bring a small delegation of very serious Filipino businesses when he goes to Bern.

Cristobal said one of the industries to be represented is the tuna sector as EFTA is a key market.

EFTA is composed of Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Total commodity trade between the EFTA states and the Philippines has grown steadily over the last years, with an increase of just over 4 percent from 2010 to 2014 and total trade in 2014 amounting to around $636 million.

The stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Philippines’ economy originating from the EFTA states has almost tripled in the last 10 years. In 2012, the outward stock of EFTA FDI in the Philippines stood at approximately $4 billion.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and Switzerland are scheduled to hold the second Joint Economic Commission (JEC) Meeting in Bern on April 27 to 28, 2016 to strengthen and move forward the two countries’ trade and investment relations.

“Pursuing an enhanced trade relationship with Switzerland is an important component of the government’s strategy to expand our country’s market access and increase investments,” said Cristobal.

The Philippine-Swiss JEC serves as a platform for regular dialogue and exchanges between the two countries to discuss specific economic and trade issues, developments in the multilateral and regional fora, and initiatives to facilitate trade as well as achieve greater collaboration among government agencies and the private sector.

Cristobal said the second JEC will focus on the implementation of previous commitments and agreements as well as the country’s proposals to increase cooperation in the areas of tourism, investments, renewable energy and labor.

“We also look forward to reaffirming our interest to become a part of the Swiss Import Programme (SIPPO) which will complement our domestic initiatives to build the capacity of local exporters and enable them to adhere to stringent standards of the Swiss market,” added Cristobal.

Bringing more Swiss businesses to the country will increase the significant economic benefits and employment that various Swiss companies such as Roche, Nestle and SGS, among others, brought to the Philippines.

In 2014, Switzerland was the Philippines’ 23rd trading partner (out of 222), 22nd export market (out of 217), and 26th import supplier (out of 182). Major exports of the Philippines to Switzerland are medical instruments, mineral compounds, electrical machines, textiles and apparel, and other machinery.

Major Swiss exports to the Philippines include watches, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products like cheese and chocolate, and non-electric machines.

source: Malaya