By Roy Mabasa
The Philippines and the Kingdom of Norway have expressed keen interest in the immediate implementation of the recently ratified free trade agreement (FTA) between Manila and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which is set to enter into force in June this year.
The mutual understanding between the two countries was aired during the recent 4th Philippine-Norway bilateral consultations hosted by Manila.
The EFTA States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, signed a free trade agreement with the Philippines in Bern, Switzerland on April 28, 2016. The agreement was ratified by President Rodrigo Duterte on December 8, 2017. Last month, the Senate concurred in the ratification of the FTA which is part of Philippine’s strategy to gain a stronger foothold in the European market.
The agreement covers trade in goods, services, investment, government procurement, intellectual property rights, competition and sustainable development.
Upon entry into force, EFTA member states will accord duty-free market access to all industrial and fishery products from the Philippines.
Under the deal, the Philippines gained significant concessions on agricultural products such as desiccated coconut, prepared or preserved pineapples, raw cane sugar, and tropical fruit wine. This also includes those that are currently being exported by the Philippines to the European Union, which can alternately be exported to EFTA.
On the other hand, the Philippines will provide all EFTA member states duty-free market access on most industrial and fishery products.
The Philippines will also grant the EFTA states market access on a number of goods, such as temperate fruits, mineral and aerated waters, food preparations, chocolate, cheese, and wine, among others.
During the recently concluded Philippine-Norway bilateral consultations, both sides also affirmed their commitment to further enhance bilateral cooperation in various areas of mutual interest, including maritime cooperation, energy, sustainable use and protection of oceans, and counter-terrorism. They also exchanged views on regional and multilateral developments.