Drilon backs ratification of trade pact with EFTA

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Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon has vowed that the minority bloc will support the immediate ratification of the free trade agreement between the Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Drilon made the promise to Svein Roald Hansen, head of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee, in their meeting in Oslo, Norway after attending the 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly held in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“As soon as the President ratifies the agreement and it is sent to the Senate for its concurrence, we, together with the minority bloc, will support it and we will ask the chamber to prioritize it,” Drilon told Hansen.

Drilon said that the ratification of the free trade agreement could bolster trade between the Philippines and EFTA member-countries namely Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.

Drilon noted a 5.6 percent decrease in the trade between the Philippines and Norway from 2014 to 2015 amounting to $51 million.

The senator said that the immediate implementation of the trade agreement “will not only help the economy and local exporters, it will strengthen its relationship with the EFTA member-countries.”

Noting that there were around 11,799 Filipinos in Norway alone working in the healthcare sector, engineering and service industry, Drilon said “it is to the best interest of the Philippines that the relationship with Norway and EFTA-member countries is maintained.”

He added that there were an estimated 25,000 Filipinos working as seafarers on board Norwegian-registered vessels.

The trade agreement, which was signed on April 28, 2016 in Bern by then Trade and Industry Secretary Adrian S. Cristobal and Switzerland President Johann N. Schneider-Amman, will cover trade in goods, rules of origin, customs cooperation, trade facilitation, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, trade remedies, trade in services, investments, intellectual property rights, competition, government procurement and trade and sustainable development.

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