By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Aside from potential investments inflow in maritime, renewable energy, finance and IT-BPM sectors, highly-skilled Filipino workers will have easier entry in the 4 wealthy EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries with the ratification of its bilateral free trade agreement with the Philippines.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez cited this as among the salient features in the PH-EFTA FTA, which the Senate ratified on March 5, 2018. The PH-EFTA FTA will be effective three months after its ratification in PH and at least one EFTA member state. EFTA is composed of four of the world’s wealthiest nations — Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Once implemented, this is the Philippines’ second bilateral FTA after the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in 2008.
On the prospects of job opportunities for highly-skilled Filipinos in EFTA, Lopez noted that the agreement allows temporary stay of the following service suppliers, without the need for an economic needs test: (1) executives, managers and specialists (who are intra-corporate transfers), (2) business visitors, (3) contractual service suppliers, and (4) installers of service industrial machinery.
The agreement will also welcome foreign investments on renewable energy, computer and related services (IT-BPM), construction, environmental services, maritime transport, and finance, he said.
“The PH-EFTA FTA is in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s strategy of pursuing trade relations with non-traditional as well as high potential trade partners. With this ratification, the Philippines will benefit from expanded trade engagements with non-EU members even as it gives us greater access to the European market,” said Lopez.
Aside from the duty-free market access in the four wealthy countries, EFTA will open access for the Philippines into its vast global network of preferential trade agreements outside the European Union. EFTA currently comprises 25 agreements with 35 countries and territories.
“While there’s a large potential to expand our trade and investment relations with EFTA, the FTA also capitalizes on it since trade goods between the Philippines and EFTA are non-competing,” said Lopez.
The FTA benefits the PH especially in exporting agricultural, industrial, and fishery products. Once the FTA is in place, EFTA will grant duty-free market access to all industrial and fishery products from the Philippines.