New vigor in Philippines-EU relations
In 2016, the EU ranked as the Philippines’ fourth largest trading partner, third as export market and fifth as import supplier. We have a surplus in our trade with the EU in contrast to our trade with China and ASEAN where we have large deficits. EU member-states have the largest share of foreign direct investments (FDI) in the country, directly supporting over 500,000 local jobs. It also ranks fourth among sources of official development assistance grants.
Two recent developments promise to take this historically important economic partnership to new heights: 1) the announcement that the EU will continue to provide GSP+ treatment to the Philippines despite earlier concerns about EJK and discussions about the restoration of the death penalty; and 2) the ratification by the Philippine Senate of the EU-Philippine Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).
The GSP+ program allows the country to export 6,274 eligible products duty-free to the EU market, thus giving our exporters a leg-up on other competing suppliers. Since being granted in 2014, Philippine exports have enjoyed record growth on many sectors. In 2017, exports benefitting from GSP+ treatment amounted to $2.5 billion, grew at a rate of 33 percent year on year. The most important products were meat, fish, vegetables, garments and machinery.
The PCA will serve as a general framework of relations between the Philippines and the EU and will allow better cooperation between the two parties on political, economic and development issues.
The areas of cooperation under the PCA include much such as customs and trade facilitation; migration and maritime labor; development cooperation; economic policy; in the tax area; industrial policy and SMEs; information and communications technology; fisheries and rural development; regional development; health; combating illegal drugs and disaster risk management.
Many hope it is a prelude to a full-blown Philippine-EU Free Trade Agreement of which there has already been two rounds of negotiations. The FTA will further unlock our trade and economic potential by providing our products and services wider access to the markets of the member-states of the European Union. All 28 member-states of the EU and the EU institutions have ratified the PCA which will enter into force next month.
This important relationship has not been given attention as much as the AEC, TPP and economic relations with China. This despite the fact that the economic relations with the EU are objectively more important for the Philippines. It is about time that its significance is recognized and that the Philippine leadership convey the importance it attaches to these relations.
The Philippines should continue to do its best to work within the different EU-related regional structures of which it is a part. In 2016, President Duterte was unable to attend the important bi-annual meeting of Asia and Europe, ASEM, when it was held in Mongolia. There are 53 partners in ASEM, including China, EU and Russia. With these new developments, there is an urgent reason for the Philippines to make its voice heard on such a global stage. And no one could do that better than President Duterte himself.
I understand that the President is not going because he feels aggrieved at criticism directed against his anti-drug war coming from certain sectors in the EU. Frankly, they were not the true voice of the EU. His beef should not be with the EU, but with certain individuals and organizations that do not represent the collective voice of the EU. The two developments I have mentioned above shows just how much the EU value its relations with the Philippines.
The President would be barking up the wrong tree if he does not go to signify his displeasure. I hope the President does go to Brussels and reaffirm his support for the EU and ASEM partnership, for the millions of Filipinos who have benefitted and many more who stand to benefit, from these important relations.
The recent death of this legendary chef triggered fond memories of our visit to Lyon many years ago. It was part of our bucket list to visit Les Halles de Paul Bocuse and his famous restaurant.
Les Halles de Paul Bocuse is one of the reasons that Lyon is dubbed France’s capital of gastronomy. An incredible variety of the finest quality food all assembled under one roof. It is an indoor market refurbished in 2004 with three floors and 13,000 square meters of floor space. By adding his name, master chef Paul Bocuse secured the market’s reputation as one of the finest places for food anywhere. There are also several bars and restaurants, one of which our group chose for lunch offering their unforgettable truffles.
The famous restaurant of Bocuse provided us a superb dinner experience. Nothing more need be said. Pictures below are truly worth a thousand words.