18 March 2024 | Brussels, Belgium

Esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen of the media, a pleasant day to all!

I am honored to represent the Philippines in this pivotal moment, officially relaunching the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Negotiations with the European Union. This event marks a significant milestone in our shared history spanning over six decades of diplomatic relations since May 1964.

In December 2022, our Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. visited Brussels. This was followed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s historic trip to our country in July 2023. These high-level engagements underscore the deepening ties between our regions and the mutual interest in enhancing our economic partnership.

Following these visits, our Philippine and EU trade officials undertook a comprehensive stocktaking exercise from September to December last year, crucial in mapping out the future of our trade relations. This process helped identify mutual ambitions and resolve issues lingering from the last negotiation round in 2017, setting a constructive tone for our discussions going forward.

I am pleased to share that last week, President Marcos Jr. returned to Europe for official visits to Germany and the Czech Republic. During these visits, we engaged in productive discussions aimed at further enhancing our economic collaboration with these two EU member countries.

The future of the Philippines-EU economic relations holds immense promise underpinned by the clear trade and investment policy directions, outlined by the Marcos administration.

The Philippines is emerging as a prime destination for foreign investments, especially in areas related to climate change and ESG initiatives.

As the center of economic growth, and ships to the vibrant Southeast Asian region, the Philippines stands as a crucial ally of the European Union and we are ready to engage in meaningful economic reforms to make this happen.

Our Philippine Development Plan for 2023 to 2028 strategically guides us to pursue dynamic, proactive, and visionary Free Trade Agreements. Therefore, an FTA with the European Union is anticipated to expand market access in goods, services, and investments significantly. It aims to enhance commercial interactions between our business sectors, create valuable opportunities for our service providers, especially professionals, and establish reciprocal rules and standards. This endeavor is designed to catalyze inclusive growth and development, fostering prosperity for all involved.

Recent legislative milestones in the Philippines, like the Public-Private Partnership Code and the Internet Transactions Act, underscore our dedication to bolstering infrastructure with private participation and integrating into the digital economy. These initiatives are a clear indicator of our resolve to foster a business- friendly environment that resonates with the global economic dynamics.

Our economic partnership with the EU is built on shared values and principles, including adherence to a rules-based trading system, the rule of law, good governance, human and labor rights, and environmental protection. We are committed to effectively implementing the international conventions under our current Generalized Scheme of Preference Plus (GSP+) coverage and incorporating a meaningful trade and sustainable development chapter, essential to our mutual sustainable development objectives.

Before I end, I would like to express my sincere thanks to EVP Valdis Dombrovskis for his leadership in moving forward the Philippine-EU trade and investment relations. I also like to thank the EU team for their collaborative spirit during this stocktaking exercise.

Enclosing, I’d say, the Philippine government is prepared to proceed with these negotiations in a spirit of transparency, collaboration, and mutual respect, with a commitment to diligently addressing and balancing the interests and concerns of both parties. We view the resumption of the FTA negotiations as a manifestation of the EU’s confidence in the Philippines as its vital economic partner.

Thank you, and good day to all! ♦

Date of release: 18 March 2024