Senate ratifies free trade accord with EFTA states

MANILA � The Senate on Monday unanimously ratified the Philippines' Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States, paving the way for improved market access for Philippine goods and services into Europe.

The FTA with the EFTA states the Switzerland Confederation, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Iceland and the Principality of Liechtenstein covers trade in goods, services, investment, competition, the protection of intellectual property rights, government procurement, as well as trade and sustainable development.

Senator Loren Legarda, the chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the FTA ratification is part of the country's strategy to gain a stronger foothold in the European market.

"Considering that EFTA requires the same standards as the EU, this will allow PH exporters to Europe to gain from economies of scale through improved market access in both EU and EFTA," she said.

In the area of trade in goods, EFTA abolishes all customs duties on industrial products as of the entry into force of the Agreement, whereas the Philippines will gradually lower or abolish its duties on the vast majority of such products.

Legarda, who sponsored the PH-EFTA FTA in plenary, stressed that the agreement was negotiated only with the promotion of fair economic cooperation in mind one that will enable a business environment conducive for investments and provide opportunities for producers, consumers, and service suppliers alike.

All negotiating positions crafted were also consistent to and compliant with the Philippine laws, rules, and regulations.

"Opening markets through agreements such as this goes hand-in-hand with all the economic reforms and ease of doing business initiatives of the government to project a clear message that the Philippines is, more than ever, ready and 'open for business'," Legarda said.

Source: Philippine News Agency