By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter
PHILIPPINE exports to the European Union (EU) have room to grow with shipments to the bloc only sixth-largest within ASEAN, according to Philipp Dupuis, Head of Trade and Economic Affairs of the EU Delegation to the Philippines.
“I think that there is more to do because if you look at it, amongst our ASEAN trading partners, the Philippines is number six,” Mr. Dupuis told reporters last week.
“There is a lot of room and this room can be filled by Philippine enterprises exporting more to the US and Asia at the moment, which are their normal markets,” he said.
He said there is an information gap preventing some Philippine enterprises from giving their full effort to the European market.
He added that he EU is trying to address this imbalance through programs under ARISE Plus.
“Half a year ago there was a business guide which was published to help Philippine companies better understand the European market and what the expectations are in terms of product quality and technical regulations, etc.,” he added.
In 2022, trade in goods between the two amounted to 18.4 billion euros, which Mr. Dupuis said has exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
“I don’t have the latest figures for 2023, but we had good growth in 2022. We went beyond pre-pandemic levels last year so this is very good,” he said.
“There is still enormous potential as we can see Philippine companies exporting much more. Of course, we hope that in the long run, there’s more investment as well, which then again, also would increase potential opportunities for exports,” he added.
Asked about potential export levels to the EU, he said that: “I always say that potentially, you can export everything to the European market. If you have the right quality, there’s a place on the market.”
“We know what the Philippines is exporting now -— semiconductors, electronics, coconut products, and tuna — but you could imagine much more,” he added.
He said that in order to reach this potential, the Philippines will also need to broaden its manufacturing bases and look into the enormous potential for tourism.
“But the European tourists don’t manage to arrive in the Philippines yet in large numbers… because there’s no direct flights,” he said
“With time, you could also build up services exports (in the form of) European tourists coming to the Philippines. So there’s more than just the goods,” he added.
Meanwhile, he said that he is optimistic about a Philippine-EU free trade agreement (FTA), which is crrently at the scoping stage.
“One has to be optimistic, of course, but discussions are still ongoing so I don’t want to preclude any conclusion. But you know, I have good reasons to remain optimistic about it,” he said.
“You want to know what the landscape is before you start to negotiate. That simply is part of the preparation because an FTA also involves many resources on both sides,” he said.
“Before the end of the year, we will have some kind of wrap-up with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and European Commission (EC), and based on that, we will decide whether there is a chance of having a successful FTA negotiation in a reasonable amount of time,” he added.
The EU and the Philippines first launched negotiations for an FTA in 2015, but these stalled in 2017 due to issues like intellectual property rights and data exclusivity, among others.
Asked about changes in the EU’s aspirations for the FTA, he said: “I think the goals don’t really change. We paused the negotiation six or seven years ago; of course, things have evolved.”
“Digitalization and ecommerce, for example, are becoming much more important. So there are certain things where we might put different accents on but overall know the overall general goals haven’t changed,” he said.
“And that is why we look into this process with a very, very positive spirit. Because we know each other already,” he added.