The EU-Philippines relationship received a boost this summer following Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to Manila, the first time a EU Commission President has visited the Philippines. This trip was von der Leyen’s second only visit to the ASEAN region, following her visit to Bali for the G20 summit last year.
The main outcome of the visit was the announcement that the EU and the Philippines will embark on a “scoping process” to assess the viability of continuing FTA talks. While this marks the beginning of a long drawn process, it is still a win for Filipino companies and exporters, who have been subjected to the possibility that the GSP+ scheme will not be extended.
The Philippines and the EU have strong bilateral economic relations. The EU is the fourth largest trade partner of the Philippines, with trade in goods amounting to over 18.4 billion euros in 2022. The main exports of the Philippines to the EU are telecommunications equipment, machinery, and food products, while imports from the EU comprise mainly machinery, transport equipment, and chemicals. Trade in services totalled 4.7 billion euros in 2021.
Both sides are not starting from scratch – negotiations for an EU-Philippines trade and investment agreement had already been launched in December 2015, where both sides were working towards a proposed agreement covering a broad range of issues, including tariffs, non-tariff barriers to trade, trade in services and investment, as well as trade aspects of public procurement, intellectual property, competition and sustainable development. Two rounds of negotiations had been held, with the last round taking place in February 2017.
ASEANcham-EU hopes that the scoping process will lead to an eventual restart of the FTA talks and urge both sides to expedite the process so that businesses can take advantage of the benefits.