THE PHILIPPINES is exploring bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) with two more countries, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said, adding that the talks are preliminary and exploratory.
“We are in exploratory talks with two other bilaterals,” NEDA Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of a forum organized by the Center for Philippine Futuristics Studies and Management, Inc. on Friday.
She declined to provide details as talks are still in their early stages. The Trade department has also yet to respond to requests for comment.
“I cannot divulge details, the talks are still confidential. (But) we are opening up, we want to diversify our markets,” Ms. Edillon said.
There are currently no multilateral agreements in which the Philippines is involved indirectly with the two countries, she added.
Aside from the two unidentified countries, the Philippines is currently in negotiations for an FTA with the European Union.
“We are currently negotiating an FTA with the EU. We already have the GSP+ with them but we want more a binding agreement,” she said, describing the current arrangements as “conditional in so many things.”
She was referring to the generalized system of preferences plus (GSP+) privileges granted by the EU to developing countries, which is subject to periodic review to evaluate the beneficiaries’ adherence to various labor and human rights standards laid out by Brussels.
The Philippines is also in the advanced stages of negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) FTA along with Asia-Pacific states, which hope to wrap up talks in 2019.
The Philippines is also looking at the possibility of a free trade agreement with the US, after the two parties strengthened their bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) last month.
Ms. Edillon also noted that the country is currently reviewing and renegotiating the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement FTA.
The Philippines has bilateral free trade deals with Japan and the European Free Trade Association.
It also has multilateral FTAs with the ASEAN, Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Korea. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan