MONTREAL, Canada (UPDATED) – Canada and the Philippines announced they will begin discussions over increasing commerce between the two nations by lowering trade barriers, officials from the two governments said Friday, May 8 in Ottawa.
The negotiations are part of a push by Canada to develop bilateral economic agreements in Asia as progress has slowed on the 12-country North American-Asia Pacific trade accord, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Canada’s trade minister will travel to Manila by the end of the month to start negotiations on the free trade agreement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
“We look forward to sharing with the prime minister the prospects of growth in the Philippines, particularly in the public-private partner infrastructure programs where Canadian investors may wish to capitalize,” the Philippine’s president Benigno Aquino III said, describing the talks as “exploratory discussions.”
Current trade between the Philippines and Canada amounts to about Can$2 billion ($1.65 billion), Harper said.
On Friday, Harper and Aquino discussed conditions for issuing work visas for Filipinos in Canada. There are about 700,000 Filipinos in the country, according to government data.
The Canadian government committed to helping the Philippines rebuild after a devastating typhoon left 7,350 people dead or missing in 2013.
The Philippines and Canada further strengthened their relations with the signing of several bilateral agreements on trade, development assistance, and occupational health and safety, witnessed by the two leaders.
A Letter of Intent on bilateral cooperation on trade and investment aims to strengthen the longstanding trade and investment relationship by pursuing exploratory discussions on the feasibility of a mutually beneficial and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
The two countries also agreed to work towards upgrading the existing 1996 Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), and to explore projects and activities under the Canadian Trade and Development Facility in providing trade-related technical services to small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs).
“On the economic front, the Philippines expresses its appreciation as regards Canada’s offer of assistance through the Canadian Trade and Development Facility, which enables our Small-and-Medium Enterprises to better access the Canadian market,” Aquino said in a statement.
The two leaders also witnessed the signing of a 5-year Mutual Accountability Framework (MAF) for development cooperation between the governments of the Philippines and Canada.
Aquino said the Mutual Accountability Framework “sets in stone our shared desire to support broad-based and sustainable economic growth in the Philippines.”
The memorandum of understanding on occupational health and safety seeks to raise awareness and understanding regarding the importance of occupational health, safety, and industrial hygiene programs in the workplace. – Rappler.com