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British Chamber says UK remains focused on trade despite leadership turmoil

THE British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (BCCP) said the UK remains focused on deepening its trade relationships despite the departure of two Prime Ministers in rapid succession.

BCCP Executive Director Chris Nelson said on the sidelines of the 2022 European-Philippine Business Dialogue in Makati City on Nov. 14 that the UK continues to explore trade arrangements with various countries.

“I think the UK and Philippine relations has been very good… We’ve had Prime Ministers Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and now Rishi Sunak (in office in recent months). I think the policy on trade has not changed,” Mr. Nelson said.

“We would welcome even further contacts. President Marcos has good ties with the UK as he went to Oxford. I think it would be good to see more Philippine delegations or officials going to the UK to promote investments,” he added.

In October, Mr. Sunak replaced Ms. Truss, who only served for 45 days.

Meanwhile, European Union (EU) representatives in the Philippines said the bloc remains interested in establishing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Philippines.

Luc Veron, EU ambassador to the Philippines, said at the same event that the EU is still keen on sealing an FTA with the Philippines, and is awaiting the resolution of some outstanding issues.

“The EU remain interested in an FTA but we feel that not all elements are in place yet,” Mr. Veron said.

“The European Commission is starting a (review) as to whether the conditions are right to resume one of the negotiations in the Southeast Asia… no decision has been made whether it will be Thailand, Malaysia, or the Philippines,” he said.

According to Mr. Veron, Philippine compliance with the EU’s terms for remaining in the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) remains a fundamental factor in the commission’s ultimate decision.

Negotiations for a Philippines-EU FTA began in 2016.

GSP+ allows the Philippines to enjoy zero tariffs on 6,274 products or 66% of all EU tariff lines. The Philippines posted a record GSP+ utilization rate of 76% last year.

The top Philippine exports under the GSP+ program include crude coconut oil, vacuum cleaners, prepared or preserved tuna, electro-thermic hair dressing apparatus, and prepared or preserved pineapple.

The Philippines must uphold commitments to 27 international conventions on human rights, labor, good governance, and environment to remain in the program. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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