THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is eyeing to resume talks for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) this month as the country is now at risk of losing its qualification for a General System of Preference Plus (GSP+) from the regional bloc.
In a press briefing in Malacañang, Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said the Philippines may be eventually barred from availing itself of EU-GSP+ once it achieves upper-middle income status.
The GSP+ exempts several exported Philippines products from tariffs in the EU.
“This was mentioned to me by the EU parliamentarians,
who visited my office. That is why as I said, we need to start negotiating for a free trade agreement [with the EU],” he said, partly in Filipino.
Last month, the World Bank (WB) said the country may reach upper middle income status once gross national income per capita falls within the range of US$4,256 to US$13,205, in the next few years.
Currently, the Philippines is classified as a lower middle-income country by the multilateral lender, with a GNI per capita at US3,640.
Pascual said he will try to discuss the FTA during his visit to Brussels this month, while he also follows up on the country’s bid for the reauthorization of its GSP+ with the EU.
The proposed Philippine-EU FTA already has the support of business from Europe with operations in the country, as well as some members from the EU parliament, according to the DTI chief.
The country has been negotiating for an FTA with the EU since 2007.
Image credits: Rey Baniquet/PNA