MANILA is looking to conclude negotiations for the bilateral trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) within two years from the start of the talks in the first quarter of 2024.
After the signing of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the negotiations of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) with UAE, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Allan B. Gepty said, “First thing next year, definitely we’d conduct series of consultations again and also work on the domestic processes.”
The consultation, he added, would not be limited to agencies but will also include stakeholders.
“We’re eyeing [about] first quarter of next year. We can already commence the negotiations and then move forward; if the issues are not contentious, then we can expect smooth negotiations. And hopefully, at least conclude the negotiation [if not] next year, at least within two years,” Gepty said at a media briefing on Monday held in Pasay City.
The Terms of Reference will generally provide the guiding principles, objectives, scope and coverage, institutional arrangements, templates for data and information exchange, and other procedural aspects of the negotiations.
The DTI, in consultation with “concerned” agencies, finalized the ToR last November 30 together with its UAE counterpart.
The Trade department said the ToR was signed on December 2, 2023 by Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual with his UAE counterpart, Minister Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi.
According to DTI, the Cepa with the UAE is a “comprehensive economic agreement that will provide, among others, greater market access for goods and services, enhance investment flows, and ensure opportunities for economic and technical cooperation.”
The ToR—a copy of which was sent to reporters through viber—noted that a Cepa with the UAE will be the Philippines’s first trade agreement within the Middle East and with a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member state.
Under the Cepa, the Philippines has a “strong” interest in generating more investments from UAE and creating more opportunites for professionals and service providers.
Gepty, the Philippines’s chief trade negotiator, underscored the economic benefits of entering into a trade agreement with the UAE, including an expected increase in trade volume.
For one, he said, “What’s interesting in the case of UAE because we’re looking at exporting to them high-value products such as aerospace parts or helicopter parts and other industrial goods coming from the country.”
Also taking into account the country’s niche in the electronics sector, the country’s Trade negotiator said,
“We’re hoping that we could participate in their supply chain, especially if they will be promoting digital transformation in the region.”
According to the DTI, the Cepa with the UAE will “operationalize” the Philippines’s trade strategy to enter new markets as stated in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028.
The UAE is the Philippines’s 17th largest trading partner and the top export market among all Gulf Cooperation Council member states.
Moreover, the Trade department highlighted that UAE is “second home” to one of the largest populations of overseas Filipinos in the Middle East, as well as “well-known and home-grown Filipino brands and businesses.”
Image credits: AP/Kamran Jebreili