Canada targets free trade agreement with PH in 2015

MANILA, Philippines – The Canadian government wants to start discussions with the Philippines this year for a potential Free Trade Agreement (FTA), to make the country its gateway to an integrated Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“We want to advance them as much as we can. We’re also conscious the clock is ticking for the Aquino administration,” Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder told a media briefing at his official residence on Tuesday, June 30.

This is to cover as much ground as possible before an upcoming change in administration.

An FTA, according to Reeder, will strengthen the Philippines’ and Canada’s long-standing trade and investment relationship.

“Canada has no FTA yet with any ASEAN member. We want the Philippines to be our gateway in the ASEAN integration,” Reeder said.

Priority

The country is also a priority market in Canada’s Markets Action Plan for creating jobs and strengthening economic growth, Reeder said.

“2014 is our record year for the number of visa issuance for Filipinos, with 40,000 visas issued for permanent residence,” the ambassador said.

This year, Reeder said Canada aims to issue about 218,000 visas, and the Philippines is one of the major drivers.

There are about 700,000 Filipinos in Canada, according to government data.

The Canada and the Philippines in May agreed to exhaust means in upgrading the existing 1996 Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), and developing projects and activities under the Canadian Trade and Development Facility to provide technical services to micro, small, and medium enterprises.

Official Canadian data show that bilateral trade increased by a yearly 2.5% to CA$1.8 billion in 2014. Canadian merchandise imports from the Philippines came in at around CA$1.24 billion, while Canadian exports to the Philippines registered CA$569.5 million.

“This is why both of our countries agreed to look at the chance of negotiating a trade agreement because once you eliminate tariffs and many other barriers behind the borders, you’ll see a significant increase in bilateral trade flows,” Reeder said. – Rappler.com