ECONOMIC COOPERATION and trade meetings between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) are set to continue before year’s end, the EU delegation said.
“We are happy to announce that these subcommittees will take place before the end of the year, obviously in virtual, remote (setting),” First Counsellor of the EU Delegation to the Philippines Rafael de Bustamante said.
Under the EU-Philippines Partnership Cooperation Agreement, the two sides created three subcommittees: development cooperation, trade, investment and economic cooperation, and good governance, rule of law and human rights.
The two sides at the first meeting reviewed their cooperation arrangements, and explored opportunities in security, the economy, human rights, sustainable development goals, environment, natural resources, and climate change, the European Commission said.
Noting trade growth in recent years, Mr. Bustamante said bilateral trade is “far from its full potential.”
“It does not help too that the trade between the EU and the Philippines in the first nine months of 2020 has declined by more than 20%” he said. “There is indeed ample margin to do more and also to recover the ground lost during the pandemic.”
He added that in terms of investment, the EU continues to view the Philippines as a large and fast-growing market.
“However, the Philippines (has not succeeded) in mobilizing European traders and investors in line with the size and potentiality of the Philippine market.”
The Philippines only attracts around 4% of total EU foreign direct investment in ASEAN each year, he said, but added that the Philippines take advantage of some programs.
The Philippines, he noted, did not impose trade barriers during the crisis, creating a “favorable business climate” that can help attract investors.
The Philippines also has trade perks that give many of its products duty-free access to the EU market, he added. The European Parliament had recently voted to ask the European Commission to revoke the country’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) due to human rights concerns.
“We look forward to continue a fruitful collaboration with the Philippines for the correct implementation of GSP+ in the years to come, especially in respect of human rights conventions subscribed to by the Philippines,” Mr. Bustamante said.
The European Commission is expected to increase its focus on Southeast Asia after Germany took over the commission’s top post, German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel said in February. She said that the commission is interested in the Philippines’ infrastructure program, as well as connectivity between Europe and Southeast Asia. — Jenina P. Ibañez