New agreement to pave way for mechanism to strengthen EU-PH cooperation

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Jan) – The European Union-Philippines Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will pave the way for a mechanism that will strengthen cooperation between EU and the Philippines in the areas of politics, trade and investment, and culture, said Walter van Hattum, head of economic and trade section of delegation of the European Union to the Philippines.

The Senate concurred to the ratification of this agreement on January 22.

Hattum told reporters during the Mindanao Business Briefing on Tuesday that the ratification was a welcome development and described by EU Ambassador Franz Jessen in a separate statement on Monday as a “major milestone” in the EU-Philippines relationship.

Hattum said the last political agreement the EU signed with the Philippines was some 30 years ago and this new agreement is a “renewal,” covering all areas of cooperation between EU and Philippines.

He said it provides a general framework of collaboration between the EU and the Philippines in political, economic and development issues.

He added that the agreement may pave the way for free trade agreement (FTA) and may also help address the concerns in customs and maritime affairs to facilitate a freer movement of goods between the EU’s 28 member countries and the Philippines.

The diplomat added that EU sees there are a lot of investment and export potentials in the Philippine but there is a need to educate the prospective European investors on the export commodities of the Philippines and the country’s economic fundamentals to get the Europeans to invest here.

The EU is one of the largest investors in the country, Hattum claimed, but the European investments in the Philippines pale in comparison with its ASEAN neighbors like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand “where you see, thanks to investors, these countries are able to boost their economy quite substantially.”

A growing interest from the European firms in the Philippines and government must put in place new measures to keep their interests, he added.

Hattum said new opportunities for investments must be made available to Europeans so that they can be encouraged to enter the country to increase the level of investments that will boost the economy.

He believes the Philippines has everything it needs – such as talents, skills, intelligence, and resources – to keep the economy growing.

“You just have to put everything in the bowl, consider a little bit how you can put it all together to get an outcome which is good for foreign investors,” Hattum added.

In a press release, Jessen said that the concurrence of the Senate to the ratification of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement is a major milestone and a big step forward in the EU-Philippines relationship.

The Philippines and the EU established diplomatic relations in 1964, and this partnership has matured and evolved over the years.

The ambassador explained the next challenge is to get this framework effectively operational.

The export values from Philippines to EU totaled US$7.1 billion for the first nine months of 2017, including a strong increase in the agriculture sector, thanks to the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+).

The GSP+ allows producers here to export at zero tariff to EU their products, comprising coconut and marine products, processed fruit, prepared food, animal and vegetable fats and oils, textiles, garments, headwear, footwear, furniture, umbrellas, and chemicals.

The release added that foreign direct investments (FDIs) from the 28 EU member states represent the largest FDIs in the Philippines, supporting over 500,000 Filipino jobs. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)