Politico | 23 May 2016
EU and Philippines kick off trade talks today
By Hans von der Burchard and Alberto Mucci
Philippine trade negotiators meet their DG Trade counterparts today for a first round of trade talks, five months after they were announced, but nobody expects a cakewalk: “It will be challenging process for us to negotiate with the EU,” Jose Antonio Buencamino, special trade representative of the Philippine Mission to the EU, told Morning Trade. Both sides are aiming for 14 to 15 chapters, including trade in goods, trade in services, intellectual property rights, competition or public procurement. The agreement will be closely linked to an already concluded partnership agreement, which requires respect of human rights and labor rights standards. Some background on the EU-Philippines negotiations info: http://bit.ly/22PcR8E
The Philippines is the EU’s sixth-largest trading partner in South Asia and a major exporter of telecommunication equipment, machinery and services, while importing a lot of transport equipment, chemicals, food and machines from Europe. For Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, it’s another milestone in a quest for bilateral trade agreements with all major countries in the region, after sealing deals with Singapore and Vietnam. “The agreement is essentially going to be a mirror of the EU-Vietnam deal,” Buencamino said.
ICS on board
The Vietnam deal is an important reference, since it was the first trade agreement to include Malmström’s new investor court system (ICS), a reformed dispute settlement mechanism to arbitrate between foreign investors and states. The EU also wants to include ICS in the Philippine deal, but there’s still some persuasion needed: “We share the EU’s objective of investment protection, but we need to be careful to see if it fits to our interests,” Buencamino said. It’s an open secret that less-developed countries like the Philippines are wary of the costs for establishing the permanent court system that Malmström is proposing — however, in the end, the Asian country will have little choice but to accept the EU’s demand if it wants to see the deal go forward.