The European Union and the Philippines have announced plans to restart negotiations for an ambitious free trade agreement, according to a press release from the European Commission on July 31st, 2023. This signals a renewed effort to strengthen economic and political ties between the strategic Indo-Pacific partners.
According to a joint statement, the EU and the Philippines will begin a bilateral “scoping process” to evaluate if they share a common vision for the comprehensive FTA. If successful, and after consulting EU member states, formal negotiations could resume after being stalled since 2017.
“The Philippines is a key partner for us in the Indo-Pacific region, and with the launch of this scoping process we are paving the way to taking our partnership to the next level,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Experts say the move aligns with the EU’s 2021 Indo-Pacific Strategy and growing focus on deepening trade relations in Southeast Asia, a fast-growing economic hub. It follows the recent restart of FTA talks between the EU and Thailand this year.
According to 2021 data, EU-Philippines trade in goods totalled €18.4 billion, while trade in services reached €4.7 billion. The EU ranked as the Philippines’ 4th largest trade partner, and the Philippines was the EU’s 7th largest trade partner in the ASEAN region.
The proposed FTA would likely include reduced trade barriers, streamlined customs procedures, intellectual property protections, sustainable development measures, and climate commitments.
With its abundant reserves of critical minerals, alongside investments in renewable energy, analysts say the Philippines offers strategic opportunities for EU companies and sustainability initiatives as part of the green transition.
While hurdles remain, restarting EU-Philippines FTA negotiations signals a mutual desire for closer economic integration and strategic alignment between the long-time partners.