Senate concurs in free trade agreement with EFTA states

March 5, 2018

THE Senate on Monday concurred in the ratification of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states.

Senate Resolution No. 647, which called for the Senate’s concurrence in the agreement, was approved with 19 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention.

Senator Loren B. Legarda, who heads the Senate committee on foreign affairs, said the agreement was part of the country’s goal of a stronger foothold in the European market.

“Considering that EFTA requires the same standards as the EU, this will allow PH exporters to Europe to gain from economies of scale through improved market access in both EU and EFTA,” she said in a statement.

The EFTA member states included the Republic of Iceland, Principality of Liechtenstein, Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation.

Ratified by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last Dec. 8, the agreement allows for a secure market access for Philippine agriculture exports beyond EFTA commitments in its existing FTAs.

The Philippines also provided EFTA zero tariffs on almost all industrial and fishery products, with transitional period for select tariff lines.

The FTA also covers trade in services, investment competition, intellectual property rights, government procurement as well as trade and sustainable development.

On the part of the Philippines, market access commitments were undertaken where additional investments and technical expertise are deemed beneficial to the country, such as renewable energy, information technology and business process management, construction as well as maritime transport.

The agreement could also attract investments in the services and non-services sectors, spur domestic competition with the view to make the country EFTA’s hub in Southeast Asia as well as obtain market access for trade in services.

Ms. Legarda said the FTA would also enable the Philippines to significantly improve its market share compared with other member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the EFTA market.

She added that opening markets through agreements such as the PH-EFTA FTA was in line with the government’s economic reforms and ease of doing business initiatives.

Source: Business World