By Roy Mabasa
The Department of Foreign Affairs welcomed today the ratification of the Philippines-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) free trade agreement, the Philippines second bilateral free trade agreement after the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA).
The EFTA is composed of the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway, and the Swiss Confederation.
The agreement is seen to boost Philippine exports to EFTA countries, especially of agricultural products, as the agreement covers 90 percent of tariff lines for agricultural products. It will also enable the Philippine services sector to bring in Filipino workers to EFTA countries where the service companies have contracts. Investments could also grow, not just bilaterally, but also from third countries that may wish to locate in the Philippines to gain access to the EFTA market.
The Philippines is the second ASEAN country, after Singapore, to conclude a free trade agreement with EFTA. Data from 2009 to 2013 indicate ASEAN exports to EFTA amounted to US$5.9 Billion, with the Philippines accounting for only 4 percent. With the agreement, the Philippines is expected to account for a bigger share of ASEAN exports to the bloc.
The agreement likewise includes a simplified procedure for exporters, dispensing with the requirement of certification of origin, and in its stead, exporters could avail of the self-declaration system.
The agreement will take effect as soon as the Philippines deposits its instrument of ratification in Oslo, Norway. On the EFTA side, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland have already ratified the agreement.