The Philippines should pursue key economic reforms to sustain growth, an official of a foreign chamber said.
With the Philippines now on the radar of most countries as a strong investment and trade partner, the country is advised to take caution on getting deals done as it could lose some of its competitive advantages in the process by giving away too much.
“We need to reform to maximize and get more from the possibilities and opportunities that can arise from engagements with the broader global market,” Ryan Patrick Evangelista, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines executive director said.
“We need to learn from experiences of other countries who have done significant reforms in their economies. It’s basically a commitment not just for a particular agreement or trade agreement but a commitment to ensure that everything that we develop or undertake in terms of policy reforms are significant enough for us to be able to gain significantly from whatever free trade agreements we will have in the future. It is important to have that attitude at the onset,” Evangelista said.
Certain economic reforms and policy changes are essential for trade negotiations between countries and economic blocs to come into fruition.
Trade Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. said recent reforms implemented in the country have led the European Union to finally give its go signal to commence negotiations with the Philippines for the much sought-after free trade agreement (FTA) with the 28-member economic bloc.
“I think it became clear to the EU that the Philippines is serious in liberalizing and opening up its economy. The institutionalization of government reforms have also convinced them that this is the key factor for the continued economic growth that we’re experiencing,” Cristobal said.
“First there was the liberalization of the banking industry. This was later followed by the competition policy and the amendment with the cabotage rules. These and other changes in economic policy convinced them that the Philippines is really an attractive trading partner,” he added.
The Philippines secured EU’s nod to start negotiations for an FTA last December.
Cristobal said the first round of negotiations would begin in April this year.
“Our improved competitiveness based on internationalindices, the ease of doing business reforms, anti-corruption and transparency drive, all of these contribute to a better environment for trade and investments. That’s what triggered the completion of our scoping phase which was discussed for about two years and the agreement to start formal negotiations this year,” Cristobal said.
Aside from the EU-FTA, the Philippines is also in negotiations for a potential bilateral agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) composed of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Negotiations for the Philippine-EFTA deal are expected to be concluded within the first half of the year.
The country is also preparing to join a bigger agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is led by the US.
Cristobal, however, said the Philippine government is not undertaking reforms just for purpose of pleasing investors and getting trade deals done.
Source: Philippine Star