The Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) is again calling on Filipino enterprises to explore the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) market this year, enumerating the many potential products they can offer under the liberal requirements of the Philippines-European Free Trade Association Free Trade Agreement (PH-EFTA FTA).
Agnes R. Legaspi, assistant director of EMB which is under the Department of Trade and Industry, said in a recent presentation on doing business in Europe that exporters should make use of the benefits under the bilateral FTA, including duty-free market access for all industrial and fisheries tariff lines and significant concessions on agricultural products.
The Philippines’ trade accord with the EFTA states, comprised of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, entered into force on June 1, 2018.
Legaspi said potential products for export to EFTA include fresh and processed foods like fresh fruits, MCT oil, virgin coconut oil, single-origin gourmet coffee, and seasonings and sauces.
Existing Philippine food products already being exported to the EFTA region include pili nuts in shell, currently sold in Swiss store Manor. Another is banana chips, which aside from Manor, are currently also sold in Swiss stores Globus, Coop and Migros.
“The Swiss consume an average of 300 tons of dried fruit annually,” shared Legaspi.
Other existing export products include natural coconut water, as well as coconut sweetener sourced from sustainable rural farming communities in Mindanao and sold in 130 stores in Switzerland.
The trade executive also highlighted the growing opportunities for adlai grain, which is considered an organic and healthy rice alternative, and healthy snacks like toasted coconut chips and fruit crisps made of assorted fruits like purple yam, banana and coconut.
Also in demand are certified agri and food products that have been cleared by Fair Trade, EU Ecolabel, and Migros Bio certification programs.
Legaspi further said that Migros, Switzerland’s largest retail company, is open to sourcing from the Philippines canned tuna from pole- and line-caught fisheries, coco water beverages, dried fruits, fruits and vegetables, and 100% juices.
There is also a window of opportunity for Philippine cacao, she pointed out. This as the EU regulation on new cadmium limits on January 1, 2019 mandates Swiss and European chocolate manufacturers to look for new sources of cacao due to high cadmium levels in Africa and Latin America.
“Recent laboratory tests show that Philippine cacao is within the allowable limit,” said Legaspi.
Aside from foodstuff, design-driven products from the Philippines also have potential on the EFTA market. These include luxury furniture, home furnishings and décor, and women’s bags and fashion accessories.
And keeping the liberal rules of origin (ROO) under the PH-EFTA FTA in mind, Legaspi said the Philippines can also be particularly competitive in garments because this only requires “cut and sew processing.” This, she said, means the country can import the raw materials like textiles and cut and sew them into finished products for export to the EFTA market.
Fisheries is another area that can benefit from EFTA’s liberal ROO requirements, as the country is allowed to source fish products globally for processing in the Philippines then exporting to the EFTA region.