ASEAN’s full economic integration two years from now should be a compelling reason for the Philippines and EU to finally enter into a free trade agreement before 2015, the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) said.
European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines executive vice president Henry Schumacher has urged the private sector to encourage the Philippine government to decisively move forward in starting Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the European Union (EU) and be ready when the region integrates economically in 2015.
Based on current trends, Schumacher said that Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and even Vietnam could sign an FTA with Europe by 2015.
“The Philippines will be left behind if no FTA with Europe is signed by 2015, a critical phase in the region as it is the start of the ASEAN economic integration. We have to make sure that Philippine business both local and European will enjoy the same benefits some of its neighbors would be getting,” Schumacher said.
Singapore has already concluded its talks with EU last month while Thailand’s parliament is set to receive and review the draft Thailand-EU FTA next month.
Indonesia, another country in the region with robust economic growth, is also preparing the grounds for FTA negotiations.
For the proposed Philippines-EU FTA, Schumacher said developments have been relatively slow in coming months even if the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which serves as the precursor to a full-fledge trade deal has been signed already middle of last year.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has done stakeholder dialogues with local industry sectors for years and the local business community led by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry has undertaken a study on the benefits of an FTA and has come to the conclusion that the Philippines should push for an agreement.
“The Philippine government is aware of the importance of the FTA and that it will be supported by the local business community in the negotiations,” Schumacher said.
Right now, Schumacher said some Philippine export sectors are encountering difficulties in competing in the European market and the situation could worsen once other ASEAN countries conclude talks and sign agreements.
Source: Manila Bulletin; Business Bulletin; 16 January 2013