PHL eyes free trade deal with EU to widen GSP+ perks–DTI chief

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DTI chief Ramon Lopez

The Philippines could maximize the benefits from the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) with the European Union (EU) through a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

In a news statement issued on Tuesday, DTI said Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez recently met with Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis of the European Commission to discuss the future of the country’s GSP+ with the EU, an FTA, and other trade and investment matters.

Noting that GSP+ is hinged on the implementation of the 27 international core conventions, DTI said the Philippines stands ready to engage the EU in constructive dialogue with the conduct of a technical mission early next year.

“Our meeting today is indicative of the country’s continuing strong ties with the EU, and we hope to push for deeper trade and investment engagements by maximizing the benefits from the GSP+ and through a possible FTA with them,” Lopez said.

For his part, Dombrovskis welcomed the constructive first exchange with the Philippine trade chief, noting that he is looking forward to the continued cooperation in terms of trade and investment of the two parties.

Lopez and Dombrovskis expressed anticipation with the convening of the Sub-Committee of Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation under the PHL-EU Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) next year to prepare the bilateral FTA.

Under the subcommittee, both sides are expected to discuss the negotiations for a bilateral FTA between the Philippines and the EU.

The meeting also discussed developments at the bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels with both officials highlighting the importance of GSP+ and its benefits for the Philippines.

DTI reiterated the importance of GSP+ to the country’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as small communities, in the wake of the economic challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aside from the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and the Philippines, Dombrovskis also highlighted the establishment of the EU-Asean Strategic Partnership on December 1, 2020.

The landmark EU-PH PCA entered into force in March 2018, strengthening ties in political, social, and economic matters.

Meanwhile, the EU-Asean Strategic Partnership elevates the ties of the two blocs, based on shared values and principles such as rules-based international order, effective and sustainable multilateralism, and free and fair trade, with a commitment to regular summits at leaders’ levels.

In 2019, the EU was the Philippines 4th-largest trading partner with a total trade of 15.7 billion euros. The Philippines is the only Asean member-state that benefits from GSP+.

Health-conscious Europeans could be the next top market for Philippine products, such as coconut sugar, pili nuts, and dried fruits, according to a study by the Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO).

The reports also indicated that natural ingredients from the Philippines, which are needed in food, cosmetics, and health products, have high export potential in European markets.

The study aims to help maximize the potential of the free trade agreement between the Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

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