EXPORTERS seeking to expand their markets need to take advantage of preferential access offered via the free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a bloc of four non-European Union states.
“We have embarked not only an FTA, which is a good framework for business, but also on a long journey of developing trade relations,” EFTA Secretariat Trade Relations Division Director Krisztina Bende said at a recent webinar.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, all industrial and fisheries tariff lines have duty-free market access to EFTA, while agricultural products such as frozen tuna, mackerel, canned pineapple, crude coconut oil, and fresh and dried bananas can benefit from significant tariff concessions.
EFTA members are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, and the FTA took effect in 2018.
EFTA Secretariat Senior Officer Ola Godo Andersen said around 13% of EFTA imports come from its FTA partners.
“While the current market share is small, the FTA sets a strong and rules-based framework to expand trade and investment relations and deepen the country’s foothold in Europe,” Mr. Andersen said.
Imports from EFTA to the Philippines hit $300 million in 2019, while exports to EFTA amounted to $434 million in 2019 and $461 million in 2020.
EFTA Secretariat Officer Bruno Hassig said Philippine imports to Switzerland have improved, exceeding $200 million in 2019.
“It has not decreased thanks to the FTA and hopefully will increase further. While Philippine exporters can benefit from reduced tariffs in textiles, clothing, and vehicles, the significant opportunity lies mainly in bringing agricultural products to Switzerland,” Mr. Hassig said.
“The tariff on average is about 45% — this is very dissuasive when you want to import. But when we negotiate FTAs, we do make important concessions, especially for what we do not produce, and here, tropical products, mainly many fruits and nuts that, for example, the Philippines exports a lot of,” he added.
EFTA Secretariat Officer Inger Grengersen told exporters planning to ship to EFTA to ensure that their products or services are produced in accordance with government regulations on human rights, labor, and the environment.
“The PH-EFTA FTA was also crafted to reaffirm the parties’ commitment to promoting trade and investment in a way that contributes to sustainable development,” Ms. Grengersen said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave