Resource persons from EFTA and the Philippines pose for a photo with Swiss Ambassador Andrea Reichlin, DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo, and Norwegian Ambassador Bjørn Jahnsen during the OCOV session in Manila.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – Bureau of International Trade Relations (BITR), in coordination with the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) – Geneva, and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Secretariat, organized a series of seminars on understanding the Philippines-EFTA Free Trade Agreement (FTA) under the One Country One Voice (OCOV) initiative. The advocacy seminars held in Cebu (5 November), in Davao (7 November), and in Manila (9 November) aimed to increase understanding of the FTA and offered practical information on how to export to the EFTA markets. The Philippines’ trade accord with the EFTA states, comprised of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, entered into force on 1 June 2018.

The PH-EFTA FTA marks an important milestone for our countries as it is now easier to do business with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. We are here to tell you about the opportunities ripe for the picking, eradicate doubts, address concerns, and most importantly, to listen to your suggestions on how we can further help you gain a stronger foothold in the EFTA markets,” Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo emphasized.

The seminar provided a comprehensive overview and main features of the bilateral trade agreement and covered customs issues such as rules of origin, proofs of origin and the verification procedure as well as other issues related to trade in goods, namely sanitary and phytosanitary requirements and technical standards. Experts also explained the approach to agricultural products in the FTA. The speakers and resource persons also gave detailed information on how to export to the EFTA markets and capped off with a Roundtable Discussion on how to maximize trade opportunities under the FTA.

Some of the benefits for Philippine products are duty-free market access for all industrial and fisheries exports, significant concessions on agricultural exports, and more liberal origin requirements. Opportunities for Filipino skilled workers and professionals who want to access the EFTA market or partner with EFTA service suppliers who intend to supply services in the Philippines were also highlighted.

The three cities were chosen due to the high concentration of Philippine exporters and manufacturers in key sectors. Cebu is an important economic center in Visayas for products such as furniture, processed food, fashion accessories, to name a few. Cebu hosts 7 manufacturing ecozones, 35 IT parks and centers, an agro-industrial ecozone, and 2 tourism ecozones. Davao, on the other hand, is called the Food Basket of the Philippines being an important producer and hub for agricultural produce, such as bananas, pineapples, and cacao. There are 2 manufacturing ecozones, 11 IT parks and centers, and 3 agro-industrial ecozones located in Davao. Finally, Manila is the center for commerce, banking and finance, and serves as headquarters for a number of companies.

The OCOV is DTI’s primary mechanism to involve stakeholders in its trade policy formulation and also serves as an important dialogue mechanism for DTI to inform stakeholders about latest developments in the country’s international trade and investment relations.

Swiss Ambassador Andrea Reichlin, and Norwegian Ambassador Bjørn Jahnsen actively supported the sessions in Cebu, Davao and Manila. Serving as resource persons were representatives from the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Geneva, Department of Agriculture, Tariff Commission, National Economic Development Authority, Bureau of Customs, Board of Investments, Bureau of Philippine Standards, as well as EFTA experts who flew in from Switzerland and Norway.♦

Date of Release: 13 November 2018