Sep 292013

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is looking into a possible free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which groups Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

“We’re studying closely, internally on the potential advantages of getting into an FTA with this EFTA. They have been very interested and they have shown strong interest in having FTA with the Philippines and we reciprocate that interest so we are getting into impact studies for this kind of FTA,” Trade undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. told reporters.

He said the country plans to start technical discussions for the potential FTA with the EFTA within the year. “We hope to start in November,” said Cristobal.

The EFTA, he noted, expressed interest to enter into a free trade deal with the Philippines in 2011.

The free trade agreement eyed with the EFTA states would be separate from the free trade deal the Philippines wants to enter into with the European Union (EU) because these states are not part of the EU.

In July last year, the Philippines and EU signed the Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA), a precondition to the parties’ bilateral trade agreement.

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The cooperation deal seeks to strengthen the parties’ bilateral relationship through cooperation in the areas of trade and investment; fighting terrorism and promoting human rights, among others.

Cristobal said the government is still undertaking technical discussions for the planned FTA with the EU.

As part of preparations for the bilateral free trade deal with the EU, the Philippine government has conducted consultations with the private sector last year and commissioned a study to look into the benefits of the potential agreement.

“These things do take time. We have internal processes,” said Cristobal.

Members of the European Parliament who visited the country in February said it is in EU’s interest to move with the negotiations for an FTA with the Philippines this year given the potential benefits in the flow of goods for both parties and as the current members of the European parliament will end their terms by June next year.

The members of the European Parliament s as there has been progress in negotiations of other Southeast Asian countries with the EU for their respective bilateral trade deals.

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