THE Swedish government supports the resumption of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between the Philippines and the European Union (EU), a minister said. 

Foreign Trade Minister Johan Forssell said at a roundtable in Makati City last week that negotiations should resume “when the time is right.”

“There is great potential there for the Philippines but also from the EU, not having to pay all these tariffs, making it easier to export products and services in both directions. That must be the ultimate goal,” Mr. Forssell said. 

Negotiations for the Philippines-EU FTA started in 2016. The last round of negotiations took place in 2017.

“The Philippines is a really key market for us… So, it is important to come here,” Mr. Forssell said.

Mr. Forssell said 40 Swedish companies operate in the Philippines.

He arrived in the Philippines on May 18 at the head of a trade mission.

“There is a growing interest from Sweden in investing in the Philippines. We’re talking about the next year but also in the coming year. That is because of the possibilities that we see here, also the very strong underlying economic growth and the young population,” Mr. Forssell said.

According to Mr. Forssell, some of the industries being studied for investment are renewable energy and energy transmission and infrastructure.

In the course of his visit he met with Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, and Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla.

Mr. Forssell also expressed support for negotiations on a new scheme to replace the expiring EU-Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), adding that Sweden has been a “strong supporter of free, open, and rules-based trade.”

Set to expire by the end of 2023, the GSP+ is an incentive arrangement that allows the Philippines to ship its goods at zero tariff. The agreement covers 6,274 products consisting of 66% of all EU tariff lines.

The top Philippine exports qualified for EU-GSP+ are crude coconut oil, vacuum cleaners, prepared or preserved tuna, electro-thermic hair dressing apparatus, and prepared or preserved pineapple.

Participation in the GSP+ is conditioned on meeting commitments to 27 international conventions related to human rights, labor, good governance, and the environment.

In 2022, Swedish exports to the Philippines rose 10.5% to $152 million compared to 2019 levels while Swedish imports from the Philippines jumped 126.9% to $124 million relative to pre-pandemic levels.

Top Swedish exports to the Philippines include machinery, wood, and paper products, while top Swedish imports include machinery, fish and fruit. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave