Bilateral Meeting between the Philippine President Marcos and EU President Von Der Leyen with key Secretaries in the Malacanang Palace (Photo from: Presidential Communications Office) 

MANILA CITY – Trade and Industry Secretary Fred Pascual warmly welcomes the visit of the European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen in Manila to meet President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. DTI Chief likewise hails both Presidents’ announcement to resume the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) discussion between the Philippines and the European Union (EU).

In June 2023, Secretary Fred Pascual visited Brussels as a follow up to DTI’s campaign in 2022 to resume the PH-EU FTA negotiations. He had a series of meetings with key officials in the EU Commission and EU Parliament (EP), including, Executive Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, European Parliament (EP) Vice President Heidi Hautala, EP Chair of International Trade Committee Bernd Lange, and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The meetings focused on the renewal of the EU-Generalized Scheme of Preferences-Plus (EU-GSP+) and PH-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. 

Meeting between DTI Secretary Fred Pascual and EU Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen on 27 June 2023 at the EU Commission Headquarters

DTI Secretary Pascual remarked, “With the country’s upward growth trajectory towards reaching upper middle-income status, it is important for the Philippines and the EU to resume FTA negotiations. The FTA will serve as a more permanent basis for the Philippines’ economic relations with the EU than the time-bound GSP+ coverage currently enjoyed by the Philippines as a lower middle-income country.”

Meetings between the Philippines and EU government technical experts will be held in the coming months to cover a range of topics from market access of goods, and services, investment liberalization, trade and sustainable development, government procurement, dispute settlement, among others. Secretary Pascual added, “Under the leadership of President Marcos Jr., the DTI along with our inter-agency negotiating team will closely work with counterparts from the European Commission to ensure the success of the scoping exercise this year. We look forward to the results of this exercise in support of our mutual objective to officially resume the PH-EU FTA negotiations in the most opportune time.” 

This scoping exercise is likewise responsive to the strong call of the business sector. The DTI recognizes the recommendations of the business sector. The DTI recognizes the recommendations from the business sector to resume the FTA negotiations, with entities such as the German Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GPCCI), EU-ASEAN Business Council, and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) leading the call.

In the first half of this year, ECCP likewise conducted a survey among its members, mostly composed of European companies. The said survey shows 81% of the companies recommend the timely conclusion of the PH-EU FTA negotiations. In a May 2020 survey conducted by the German Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 83 percent of German companies advocated for the resumption of Philippines-EU FTA negotiations.

Secretary Pascual added, “The PH-EU FTA would be a strategic platform for the economic engagement of the EU in the Indo-Pacific and PH can very well serve as its strategic trade partner.” 

Since last year, the Philippines and the EU have been closely working together immediately after the assumption of the current Administration. There have been high-level exchanges with the EU Council, EU Commission and EU Parliament since last year. These include DTI’s visit as well as the PH-EU Interparliamentary Meeting in October 2022, President Marcos’s visit on December 2022, EU’s Parliament visit in Manila in February 2023, and DTI Secretary’s follow-up meeting with the EU Parliament and EU Commission last June 2023. ♦

Date of release: 31 July 2023