PHL trade talks with UAE expected next week

THE PHILIPPINES is expected to start the first round of negotiations for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next week, with a target to wrap up talks within the year, the Trade department said.

Undersecretary Allan B. Gepty of the Department of Trade and Industry told reporters that the Philippines will start the first round of talks on May 6.

“That is, of course, a very important free trade agreement (FTA) for the Philippines given that we have a lot of professionals and also businesses in the UAE,” Mr. Gepty said.

“Definitely, an FTA will be a big help for them as far as a stable business environment is concerned, and of course, in the same manner, it’s also important for UAE investors here in the Philippines because, as always, a stable business environment would really encourage more investment in this country,” he added.

Mr. Gepty said that the agreement will cover market access, intellectual property, competition, digital trade, and government procurement.

“And given the importance of the FTA, we hope to finish the negotiations within the year in time for, if I’m not mistaken, the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations with the UAE,” he said.

“So, if we can conclude that within the year, that would be a good milestone in our diplomatic relations, particularly economic relations,” he added.

He said that the negotiations will take place alternately in the UAE and in the Philippines, with the first round in Dubai.

“In the first round of negotiation, basically, it will focus on… the terms of reference. We’ll have to work within those terms of reference (in later sessions),” he said.

“In the first round, we’ll have to work and negotiate on the text of the FTA. We hope to conclude as many chapters as possible,” he added.

Asked if there are any potential stumbling blocks in the talks, he said: “I see a lot of alignment when it comes to the trade and investment policy direction of the Philippines and the UAE, so that’s why I’m confident that I think we can conclude the negotiation within the year.”

He said that the Philippines will negotiate market access for its agricultural and industrial products as well as services.

“We want to secure a preferential arrangement for all our products of interest, from agricultural products to industrial products,” he said. “What is interesting in the case of the UAE is that the Philippines is very strong in exporting aerospace parts to the UAE.”

“We know that the UAE is also strong in the aerospace industry, as they have big airlines, so more than the parts, we are also eyeing services,” he added.

According to Tradeline Philippines, total trade between the Philippines and UAE grew over 5% to $1.9 billion in 2023. — Justine Irish D. Tabile