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“We act with deliberate speed to nurture our trade and investment relations with Europe and ensure that our local enterprises can take advantage of the opportunities in the European market. The One Country, One Voice [OCOV] consultations is an important pillar in our unified industry and trade strategy that helps ensure our trade-negotiating position remains rational, responsive to and grounded on the needs of our stakeholders,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said.

The DTI has been conducting stakeholder consultations through its OCOV program, which allows stakeholder participation in trade policy formulation. OCOV, launched in 2011, facilitates transparency and accountability, as government undertakes the process of engaging in dialogues, building mutual trust, and arriving at rational, sound and balanced trade policies in pursuit of national development. To date,

consultations have been conducted in key cities in the country, particularly on the country’s trade engagements with Japan, EU and Efta—Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Rodolfo said the DTI is set to foster dialogue and gather stakeholder feedback on cross cutting trade and industry policy issues.

“Our goal is to build on our offensive interests, identify possible roadblocks and determine the necessary measures to better prepare and strengthen industries to upgrade, thrive and compete with the country’s European partners,” he said.

Trade Assistant Secretary Anne Robeniol said the upcoming OCOV consultations will focus on promoting wider involvement of stakeholders in the Philippines’s trade engagements with Europe, particularly in further defining the country’s offensive interests and sensitivities in FTA negotiations.

“While we are working to create a more robust trading and investment relationship with the EU and EFTA, our priority is to utilize the current tangible and concrete gains of our trade engagement through the EU-GSP+ and build on these gains through FTAs,” Robeniol said.

The EU-GSP+ is a preferential tariff scheme, which allows the country to export more than 6,000 products to any EU member-country tariff free. Last year, with the EU-GSP+ in force, Philippine exports to the EU market grew by 27 percent as compared with total figures recorded in 2014.

Robeniol said this is part of DTI’s parallel three-pronged strategy to establish a stronger foothold in the European market,  which also include securing long-term duty-free market access in the EU and the EFTA through separate FTAs.

At present, the Philippines is preparing for the second round of negations with the EU on a possible FTA as well as the executive ratification and Senate concurrence of the recently signed PHL-EFTA FTA.

The consultations will be held on September 16 at the DTI International; September 19 at the Seda Abreeza Davao; and September 21 at the Quest Hotel Cebu.□

Gari Ann Valera, Export Marketing Bureau, Department of Trade and Industry

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