PH wants agri products included in European free trade pact

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PH wants agri products included in European free trade pact
Despite European Free Trade Association's small size, the Philippines is expected to benefit from direct investments by its rich member-states

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is negotiating for the inclusion of processed tropical fruits and durable fresh products as part of the ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), said Agriculture undersecretary for Policy Segfredo Serrano.

EFTA is a common market composed of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, all non-European Union members, that operates in parallel to the 28-nation European Union (EU).

The challenge for Philippine negotiators is to find a way to make agricultural exports viable considering the vast distance involved in exporting to EFTA nations.

“We have to conquer the distance and the transfer cost for Philippine products,” Serrano said.

EFTA, in turn, is asking for market access for its member-states’ processed and fresh fish at zero tariff.

Agreement before next administration

Negotiations for the free trade agreement were put in motion following the country signing a Joint Declaration on Cooperation (JDC) with EFTA in June 2014 in Iceland.

The first round of negotiations for the free trade pact was conducted in March with the second in June 2015. The next round of negotiations would be conducted in September followed by the next round in November, Serrano said.

“Our goal is to be able to clinch this free trade agreement and be able to prepare it for ratification before the end of the administration,” he said.

Despite its EFTA’s small size, the Philippines is expected to benefit from direct investments by its member-states in the manufacturing and services sector as well as in agricultural trade.

EFTA members are among the world’s richest nations with firms that are heavily involved in the shipbuilding, iron and steel, automotive and automotive parts and components, and aerospace and information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) industries.

The Philippines is particularly interested in hosting local operations of these multinational firms.

The free trade pact with EFTA would also strengthen the country’s economic relations with the region.

Aside from EFTA, the country is also interested in entering into a more ambitious free trade pact with the EU, for which it has begun discussions and scoping exercises. –

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