PNA | 18 February 2020
Envoy sees strong potential for UK-PH free trade agreement
By Kris Crismundo
MANILA — Visiting United Kingdom Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the Philippines Richard Graham sees strong potential for free trade agreement in the future between the UK and the Philippines.
In a press briefing in Makati City Tuesday, Graham, who is also a British parliament member, said the Philippines is an important trade partner for the UK and as part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which the British government is looking into forging a trade deal with.
He added that trade relations between Manila and London are complementary as UK sources a lot of agricultural products from the Philippines such as tuna, pineapples and coconut-based products, among others, while the Philippines imports high-technology products from the UK such as planes, automotive and consumer goods.
The British government will be pursuing independent trade agreements around the globe as UK transitions to leave the European Union (EU) by end of the year after concluding Brexit talks last month.
“We are talking with a lot of countries about our future independent trading relationship and that include market access talks with big countries like China; potential future trade agreements with countries like Japan, Australia, New Zealand, America; and also deeper partnerships and dialogues with countries like the Philippines and other Asean members, which I hope, eventually, in the longer term will lead to a free trade agreement,” Graham said.
While stressing that Singapore and Malaysia are the top trade and investment partners of the UK in Southeast Asia, there is a growing interest in the Philippine market among British manufacturing firms currently operating in China.
“I would anticipate for the Philippines that there would be some opportunities for diversification of companies who are doing the manufacturing in China,” Graham noted.
He said British companies are also looking into the business process outsourcing sector of the country.
“We just keep making sure that the tax rules are transparent, clear and favorable,” the trade envoy added.
Meanwhile, Graham said trade arrangements between the Philippines and the UK under the EU Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) will still be in place after the UK finally leaves the EU at end-2020.
“We will roll out that over on the 31st of December. It’s rebranded EU GSP+, but it will be exactly the same, so business as usual,” Graham said.
For his fifth trade and investment visit in Manila, Graham has met Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.
Bilateral trade between the Philippines and UK stood at 2.3 billion UK pounds (approximately PHP151.23 billion) in the four quarters ending September 2019, increasing by 20.4 percent from 383 million UK pounds (PHP25.19 billion) from the four quarters ending September 2018.