Drilon urges immediate ratification of free trade deal with EFTA

SENATE Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday expressed support for the immediate ratification of the free trade agreement between the Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Drilon said that the ratification of the free trade agreement could bolster trade between the country and the EFTA member-countries.

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."

The EFTA is a regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.

Drilon recently met with Svein Roald Hansen, head of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee, in Oslo, Norway, after participating in the 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly held in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Drilon assured Hansen of his support once the executive sends it to the Senate for its ratification.

"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 assured Hansen.

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

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 28 April 2016 in Bern by then Trade and Industry Secretary Adrian Cristobal and Johann Schneider-Amman, Switzerland President, will cover, among others, 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. (SunStar Philippines)
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