THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the conclusion of negotiations with Canada for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to come some time after the Duterte administration steps down on June 30.

“In terms of timing, the process may take time and therefore is not expected to be completed before June 30 this year,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a Viber message to BusinessWorld, in response to queries about the trade deal, known as ACANFTA.

The Tariff Commission (TC) issued a notice on April 25, announcing that it will hold a public consultation regarding Philippine participation in the ACANFTA negotiations, covering products under Chapters 1 to 97 of the ASEAN Harmonized Tariff Nomenclature (AHTN) 2017.

The TC said the scheduled public consultation will be held on May 5, in accordance with Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

According to Mr. Lopez, ACANFTA is expected to be “mutually beneficial.”

“The ACANFTA will be our window through ASEAN to have an FTA with Canada. This will mean more goods that can have better trade flows mutually beneficial to strengthen trade relations with Canada,” Mr. Lopez said.

Mr. Lopez would not say which goods the Philippines is pushing for inclusion in free trade talks.

“The goods to be included are yet to be negotiated between ASEAN and Canada. We will definitely include products that will benefit us,” Mr. Lopez said.

In November, Mr. Lopez and his counterpart trade ministers from the ACANFTA countries launched trade talks.

The DTI has said that a joint feasibility study done in 2018 indicated that the Philippines is projected to realize a 2.63% gain in gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to $7.4 billion, after joining ACANFTA.

The study also suggested that ASEAN GDP will increase by 1.6% or $39.4 billion as a result of ACANFTA.

According to the DTI, Canada was the Philippines’ 18th largest trading partner in 2020, with trade valued at  $925.7 million. Canada was the Philippines’ 19th largest export market, with shipments valued at $400 million, and the 22nd largest source of imports at $525.6 million.

According to the Canadian embassy website, Canada-Philippines bilateral merchandise trade was $2.7 billion in 2021, up from $2.1 billion in 2020.

The embassy said Canadian merchandise exports to the Philippines included meat, mineral ores, wood, cereals, and precious stones and metals while top imports were electronics, machinery, and scientific and precision instruments. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave