Gov’t started talks for EU free trade deal

Published by rudy Date posted on May 17, 2011

The government had started negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a free trade agreement at the sidelines of the recent 18th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Indonesia, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo said.

Domingo said he headed the Philippines panel while EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht represented the European bloc during the meeting.

“The Philippines has started its national consultations to engage the civil society, business community, and partner agencies in identifying the elements and modalities for the country’s possible trade agreement with the EU. This is also to pave the way for the conduct of a scoping study envisioned to be completed before the end of the year,” Domingo said.

The scoping study covers stakeholder views from broad-based consultations. The outcome of the study, on the other hand, will also serve as inputs to the actual negotiations.

Domingo also informed Commissioner de Gucht of other Similar initiatives by the Philippines on the free trade deal such as the conduct of an impact assessment study. This was well received by the EU who conveyed that they eagerly await the results of said initiatives.

“This trade deal will usher in new growth opportunities for both countries and also strengthen EU’s ties with the rest of Asean,” Domingo added.

Last week, the Philippines launched the “One Country, One Voice” national consultation sessions meant to establish an efficient and effective consultative mechanism in enhancing and sustaining public engagement in trade policy formulation. Over 80 members of civil society organizations, academe, government, and business attended the consultation.

On the EU Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) regime, the trade commissioner stated that the proposed GSP Program for 2012 is being reviewed and expects that this will be favorably considered in time for implementation next year. The EU delegation in Manila is supportive of Philippine plans to undertake information advocacy on the new scheme.

The EU delegation also met with the rest of the Asean economic ministers to continue work on further improving trade and investment between Asean and the EU.

The ministers endorsed a work program outlining a number of activities, including regular high-level dialogs and policy discussions and private sector engagement through the EU-Asean Business Council. The council aims to strengthen existing relations between Asean Business Councils with European Chambers in the region.

EU is Asean’s largest source of foreign direct investments and second largest trading partner, while Asean is EU’s fifth largest trading partner.

Prior to the Asean Summit, Domingo also met with the rest of the Asean ministers to discuss implementation of economic integration and cooperation initiatives in the 5th Asean Economic Community (AEC) Council Meeting.

Domingo emphasized the need for simplified preferential trade agreement rules for small and medium-size companies so that more micro, small, and medium-size companies (MSMEs) could benefit from the regional trade agreements.

Domingo also reported that the ministers have instructed its officials to develop a framework or guiding principles for equitable economic development, including high-impact targets and quick wins beyond 2015.

Among the other issues tabled in the discussion were addressing the constitutional, legislative, and regulatory measures that affect the realization of an Asean Economic Community (AEC); food and energy security; as well as existing cooperation mechanisms in expanding the Asean+3 Emergency Rice Reserve and research and development toward renewable energy. –Ayen Infante, Daily Tribune

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