MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Thursday said it was time to resume talks for a bilateral free trade agreement between the Philippines and the European Union (EU), describing it as a "win-win strategy."
Marcos called on the EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) which could help in resuming the negotiations.
The EU-Philippine free trade talks began in late 2015. Negotiations on this stalled in February 2017 under then-President Rodrigo Duterte.
"A bilateral [free trade agreement] will be a win-win strategy for both the Philippines and EU. It promises to achieve mutually-beneficial economic goals while maintaining consistency with EU's core ideals of sustainable development and environment protection, as well as with EU's Indo-Pacific strategy," Marcos said in his speech.
The two business entities, Marcos said, can "move this forward all the way to a favorable conclusion."
"With this conducive business atmosphere that we are fostering, I believe we can all agree that timing and conditions are now quite ripe for us to solidify the longstanding and historically-beneficial trade relations through a bilateral-Philippine-EU free trade agreement," he added.
"If and when it happens, it can be the capstone to strengthen EU-Philippine relations over the course of the next decades. Join me as I greet you all once again... and express my gratitude for interest that you continue to show in the Philippines."
He also cited the country's recovering economy and its shift to renewables, which can help pave the way for trade and investments with the economic union.
This shift, he said, was part of the enabling environment that might prepare the country for its compliance of international obligations determined by the EU.
It will also assure the Philippines' continued participation in the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) scheme, which he said could help small businesses and the country's export market in the EU.
"This will also encourage further foreign investments in our manufacturing sector," said Marcos.
A GSP+ status allows the Philippines to export to the EU without duties or with reduced tariffs. The preferential GSP+ status was given to the Philippines in 2012.
The trade agreement provides over 6,000 tariff lines "at zero duty upon entry into the EU," the Bureau of Customs said but access to the preferential trade scheme expires at the end of the year.