The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) urged local business leaders to encourage the Philippine government to move forward in starting negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a free-trade agreement (FTA).
With the impending economic integration of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the ECCP noted that an FTA between the EU and the Philippines has become more important.
ECCP Executive Vice President Henry Schumacher, in a statement, said that based on current trends, 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 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 Investment has conducted 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.
Currently, Schumacher noted that 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: Business Mirror; The Economy; 16 January 2013