Senate of the Philippines, Pasay City - Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez visited the Senate on 26 February 2018 to listen to the sponsorship speech of Senator Loren Legarda on the proposed ratification of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Philippines (PH-EFTA FTA).
In her sponsorship speech, Sen. Legarda presented to the legislative body Senate Resolution No. 647 that seeks to ratify the free trade agreement between the Philippines and EFTA Member States that include the Switzerland Confederation, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Iceland, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. The agreement marks an important milestone in the overall international trade policy of the Philippines, particularly significant as it is only the second bilateral free trade agreement of the country after PJEPA.
In providing the rationale for such engagement, Sen. Legarda emphasized that engaging EFTA through an FTA is part of the country's strategy to gain stronger foothold in the European market, which includes maximizing the benefits of the EU GSP+, negotiating a PH-EU FTA, and concluding the PH-EFTA FTA to have a wider reach in the region.
Once ratified and upon entry into force, the Philippines aims to (a) secure greater market access for Phillippine agricultural exports, (b) attract investments in services and non-services sectors, particularly those which can benefit from additional capital and/or technological transfer, and (c) obtain market access for trade in services, including opportunities for Filipino professionals and skilled workers.
Key features of the agreement includes duty-free market access for all industrial and fisheries tariff lines, cooperation on anti-competitiveness practices, commitment on cross-border supply of services and movement of natural persons, provision on sustainable development while ensuring labor rights and environment protection.
In conclusion, Sen. Legarda echoed what President Rodrigo R. Duterte mandated by exploring and maximizing opportunities not only with traditional partner economies but also with non-traditional and high potential trading partners. Moreover, she emphasized that such agreement goes hand-in-hand with all the economic reforms and ease of doing business initiatives of the government, projecting a clear message that the Philippines is, more than ever, ready and "open for business."♦