In “A Stronger Europe in the World”

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Background and state of play

Following the exploratory talks that started in 2013, negotiations for an FTA with the Philippines were officially launched in December 2015, based on the 2007 ASEAN negotiating directives. The first round of negotiations took place in May 2016. The second round of negotiations was held in February 2017. No date has been set yet for the next negotiation round.

The objective of the negotiations is an agreement similar in coverage to those already concluded with other ASEAN member states, namely with Singapore and Vietnam.

The Commission published two questionnaires (a general version for industry and one specific to fisheries issues), addressing stakeholders and interested parties, and launching a consultation to gather information that would help define a negotiation position. The survey closed on 30 April 2016.

The Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) Draft Final Report carried out for the Commission was published in May 2019. The SIA analyses the potential economic, social, human rights and environmental impacts of the agreement.

In February 2020, the Commission presented a biennial report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), covering the period 2018-2019. This was accompanied by an assessment (among other GSP+ beneficiary country assessments) of Philippines' progress towards the implementation of 27 international conventions relevant for GSP+ trade preferences.

Main negotiation issues

During discussions in the first negotiation round, which focused on such issues as rules of origin, sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures, services and investment, the EU presented its position based on earlier negotiations conducted with Vietnam and Singapore. Prior to the second round, the EU presented nine initial textual proposals, including those on rules of origin, SPS measures, public procurement and intellectual property. The Philippines tabled seven textual proposals ahead of the round, for instance on services, investment, and trade and sustainable development (TSD). During the second negotiation round, progress was achieved in several negotiation areas, and it was decided that a number of negotiation groups will continue working ahead of the next round. In March 2017, the Commission published short factsheets to accompany the above-mentioned proposals for legal texts.

Position of the European Parliament

On 8 June 2016, the Parliament adopted a resolution in which it welcomed the agreement of December 2015 to open talks on an FTA with the Philippines. While the Parliament stressed the need for high standards on human rights, labour and the environment, it underlined that such an FTA should act as a building block towards a bi-regional EU-ASEAN agreement. In September 2016, in its resolution on the Philippines, the Parliament expressed deep concern regarding the excessively high number of people killed in anti-crime and anti-drug operations. In March 2017, the Parliament adopted another resolution on the Philippines, this one highlighting the case of Senator Leila M. De Lima. While again firmly condemning drug trafficking and drug abuse in the Philippines, the Parliament urged the Commission to convince the Philippines to cease extrajudicial killings related to the anti-drug campaign. The Parliament's resolution of 19 April 2018 on the Philippines called on the Commission to, should there be a lack of concrete improvements related to the cessation of extrajudicial killings, initiate the procedural steps which could result in the temporary withdrawal of the GSP+ preferences. Recently, in its resolution of 17 September 2020 on the situation in the Philippines, including the case of Maria Ressa, the Parliament, given the seriousness of the human rights violations, again called on the Commission to immediately initiate the procedural steps which could result in the temporary withdrawal of the GSP+ preferences, should there be a lack of 'any substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Philippine authorities'.

During the previous parliamentary term, David Martin (S&D, United Kingdom) was the standing rapporteur on the trade relations with the Philippines in the INTA Committee.


 Further reading:

Author: Matthew Parry, Members' Research Service,

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As of 23/06/2022.