PH signs protocols to upgrade two regional FTAs of ASEAN

The Philippines has signed two protocols agreeing to update two regional free trade agreements (FTAs) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In a statement Thursday, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Secretary Alfredo Pascual signed the Second Protocol to enhance the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA) and the First Protocol to amend the ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA (AHKFTA) on Feb.14.

Envoys to the Philippines Australian Ambassador Hae Kyong Yu and New Zealand Ambassador Peter Kell witnessed the signing for the AANZFTA and Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in Jakarta Acting Director-General Allan Pang witnessed the signing for the AHKFTA at the DTI Office in Makati City.

“The finalization of the Second Protocol to Amend the AANZFTA represents another milestone in our work to further strengthen regional trade and investment flows between ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand. We want to ensure the agreement continues to benefit businesses and reinforce our strategic links in the region,” Pascual said.

With this upgrade in AANZFTA, member states will include new chapters in the trade deal such as government procurement, trade and sustainable development, and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

It will also have new mechanisms under the Chapter on Trade in Goods and Customs Procedure, which include facilitating trade of essential goods during humanitarian crises and addressing related issues on non-tariff measures to boost trade of merchandise goods in the region.

The DTI noted that there will be amendments to the Chapter of Trade in Services for sectors of professional services, education, transportation, construction, tourism, and banking services, among others.

“Technically, it’s a new agreement. So the parties reviewed the existing AANZFTA, improved some provisions, and added some chapters like SMEs, E-commerce, and Trade and Sustainable Development, among others. It will take effect 60 days from the ratification of Australia, New Zealand, and four ASEAN member states,” DTI Undersecretary Allan Gepty told the Philippine News Agency.

For the AHKFTA, Gepty said the parties aim to improve the existing rules, particularly Product Specific Rules, to improve market access.

With the signing of the First Protocol to amend the AHKFTA, the Philippines agreed to adopt more liberal origin rules for manufactured products such as food preparations, polystyrene, jewelry, woven fabrics, and denim.

Gepty said the First Protocol to amend the AHKFTA will take effect 60 days from the deposit of the Instrument of Ratification of the last party, with all parties required to ratify.

“We welcome signing the AHKFTA First Protocol to boost trade through simplified export requirements between ASEAN and Hong Kong. We recognize the developments in the global economy and the challenges that come with it. It is also important that ASEAN and Hong Kong optimize their economic partnership anchored on a rule-based system,” Pascual said.

The DTI chief also vowed that the agency will boost awareness among Philippine businesses, especially MSMEs to maximize the benefits of these two regional FTAs.

“The DTI conducts outreach activities to assist stakeholders make the most of our free trade agreements,” he added. (PNA)

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