EU-Philippines free trade agreement talks starting

The European Union (EU) and the Philippines (PH) have officially resumed negotiations on a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA), according to a joint announcement on March 18, 2024. The EU-PH-FTA could cover a wide range of issues, including trade, investment, services, intellectual property, and sustainable development.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced already during her visit to Manila in August 2023 the expected resumption of the FTA negotiations – a quite disappointing development for human rights groups. The EU is seeking to strengthen trade relations with countries such as the Philippines, which have large reserves of critical raw materials such as nickel, copper, and chromite, which are crucial for the transition to green technology in the EU.

Analysts have warned that the Philippines could face difficulties in the FTA negotiations with the EU Commission due to ongoing human rights concerns in the country. However, EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis emphasized the importance of progress in the Philippines’ court cases, with the cases of Maria Ressa and former Senator De Lima, where the highest standards of fair trial and human rights should have been guaranteed.

The resumption of the FTA talks comes at a time when the Philippines is increasingly strengthening its international diplomatic relations, as highlighted by the Philippine President’s recent trip to Germany and the Czech Republic.

Following Marcos’ participation in the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit from March 4 to 6, 2024, international observers expressed concerns that issues such as human rights might to take a back seat in favor of economic interests. This concern is particularly relevant in light of recent developments in the region, such as disputes in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.



Photo © Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash

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