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Philippines: Tuna Exports To EU Are Suffering From Non-Tariff Barriers

The Philippine government aims to address sensitive trade issues with the European Union under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), primarily Europe’s strict imposition of the nontariff barriers under sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), as well as fair competition policy based on the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Export industries of economies in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, have suffered multibillion- dollar worth of losses following the imposition of the SPS measures by many Western countries, including the 27-member EU bloc.

Other countries with strict nontariff barrier measures include the United States, Canada and Australia.

One of the primary exports affected by Europe’s SPS measures include Mindanao’s tuna and other fish industry.

A document obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that the bilateral agreement covers a wide range of issues on trade and investment provision. Two other provisions include economic and development cooperation and political cooperation.

Articles 5 to 12 of the PCA cover trade and investment matters that include general principles on trade and investment cooperation; cooperation on SPS; cooperation on standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment; customs cooperation; cooperation in investment promotion; cooperation in the field of competition policy; cooperation in services; and cooperation in intellectual property.

An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) explained that the PCA provides for “nonbinding cooperation and networking at our own pace.”

“[But] the trade and investment negotiations in the PCA will be considered in the parallel negotiations for free-trade agreement [FTA] between the EU and the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations [Asean] that aims for specific commitment on market access and trade liberalization on binding basis,” said the DFA official who requested anonymity.

In 2006 the EU has proposed to sign an FTA with Asean economies—the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. But EU refuses to include Burma/Myanmar in the FTA due to its serious political concern on Burma’s military junta that continues to commit rights atrocities in the last decade.

The regional bloc composed of 27 rich economies, meanwhile, agreed to less-developed countries of Laos and Cambodia at a latter pace.

Each of the Asean economies needs to sign first the PCA bilateral deal with the EU before they can qualify in the comprehensive FTA.

However, the PCA carries the controversial requirement to commit the Philippines to ratify the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court that tries war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity.