‘EU-RP pact basis for free trade’

Published by rudy Date posted on February 10, 2009

MANILA, Philippines –  The head of the European Union panel in the first negotiating round on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and the Philippines said yesterday that the existence of this framework agreement on cooperation should be the basis to enter into Free Trade Agreement (FTA) commitments.

James Moran, Director for Asia of the European Commission (EC) in Brussels, said in his opening remarks of the two-day negotiation that the EU considers the PCA and the FTA as different from each other but they could be complementary and mutually supportive.

“The PCA and FTA are two different pairs of shoes. Both agreements follow their own reasoning: the PCA intends to create an overall framework for our relationship based on partnership and cooperation. In contrast, the FTA aims at specific trade commitments such as on market access, services and the like,” Moran said.

Moran said EC President Jose Manuel Barroso and President Arroyo emphasized on several occasions the mutual interest of the EU and the Philippines to move closer together and to forge a modern and comprehensive relationship for the challenges of the times.

Moran said the EU is an international player that is reflected in the EU’s conduct of its foreign policies. The EU has become an increasingly active party on the international scene, concluding more than 600 bilateral and 200 multilateral agreements with partners.

“The Philippines is in many ways closer to the EU than many other Asian countries. Historical ties have bound us over centuries. We both share (partly) the same language, we both live in vibrant democracies and we both cherish the respect of human rights,” he said.

On the economic level, the EU has in recent years been among the largest investors in the Philippines, and is currently the Philippines’ second-largest export market.

Moran said the EU has also been a reliable development partner of the Philippines, and the EC alone (not counting the bilateral programs of member states) has committed more than a billion euros in cooperation funding for the Philippines since EU’s partnership with Asia began in 1976. Its current program earmarks 130 million euros in development aid until 2013.

EU Ambassador Alistair MacDonald said the PCA is different from the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), which is a trade agreement. The PCA will set a foundation before entering into an FTA.

“JPEPA is largely a trade agreement, in my understanding. The idea of a partnership and cooperation agreement is fundamental. It refers to our cooperation in areas like the political field (where we are) working together to address human rights issues,” MacDonald said.

The Philippines, led by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the EU began yesterday the negotiations on a PCA that seeks to foster opportunities for greater collaboration in a range of areas, and would stimulate greater Philippine trade and investment links with Europe. –- Pia Lee-Brago, Philippine Star

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