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FTAs secure consistent trade policy for PH: DTI

As the Philippines transitions to a new administration by June, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the country’s bilateral and regional trade deals secure consistent trade and investment policy for the government.

In a webinar of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) Wednesday, DTI Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty said the agency had solid trade policy direction for the past years, especially strengthening economic partnerships with major trading partners namely the United States and the European Union (EU).

Gepty said the Philippines has yet to have free trade agreements (FTAs) with these two major trading partners, but is currently enjoying zero-duty on a wide range of goods through the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) with the US and Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) with the EU.

Government data show that the US was the country’s top destination for Philippine goods last year with exports amounting to USD11.85 billion, and the fifth largest import source amounting to USD7.74 billion.

On the other hand, Philippine exports to the EU reached USD8.53 billion, while imports hit USD8.25 billion in 2021.

Gepty added the DTI has been active in the past years in pursuing a “more stable economic partnership” with the US and the EU.

With the FTA prospect with the EU, the Philippines and the EU started exploratory talks for a bilateral free trade deal in 2013 and had two rounds of negotiations in 2016 and in 2017. 

However, both sides have yet to set another discussion for a possible FTA.

During the visit of former US President Donald Trump in Manila in 2017, he welcomed the suggestion of the Philippines to have an FTA.

Gepty said the Biden administration, on the other hand, is pursuing the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to boost its economic engagement with Indo-Pacific nations.

“We have signified strong interest to engage with the US with that and other like-minded countries to discuss details, evidence and direction on how we can establish this, proceed (in) this Indo-Pacific framework,” he said. “So, the direction is one, we can engage with the US using that framework, and of course our intention to pursue a bilateral (relationship) with (the) US.”

Gepty said since FTAs are international pacts, this makes the country’s trade policy towards other nations consistent despite changes in leadership.

“(W)e want to establish a conducive business environment with uniform, as much as possible standard rules in doing business, trade and investments, so that whenever there are changes in the administration, they know that the direction would still be consistent,” he added.*PNA

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