The Philippines and Switzerland signed an agreement setting up a Joint Economic Commission (JEC) on June 28, 2013, to pave the way for a free trade agreement (FTA) with four countries of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) – Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Switzerland – to lower duties and tariff on industrial exports and to allow Philippine companies to import goods under more favorable conditions. The FTA will enhance Philippines-Swiss economic ties, on top of agreements previously signed, such as the Investment Protection Agreement in 1999, the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement in 2001, the Trainee Agreement in 2003, and the Agreement on Social Security in 2004.
Talks for the creation of the JEC and for a free trade agreement with EFTA started on February 6, 2012, after Filipino and Swiss officials met for the 150th anniversary of the Swiss Consulate in Manila. President Benigno S. Aquino III and Former Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf agreed on this at the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, on November 7, 2012.
JEC is a consultation mechanism for dialogue to improve and facilitate bilateral trade and investment flows, and to facilitate business matching between Filipino and Swiss businessmen. It will be the platform for coming out with mutually beneficial economic deals through consultations and visits by trade delegations or missions from both the government and private sector.
The Department of Trade and Industry said the two countries are committed to strengthen and move forward their economic relations. DTI data showed that in 2012, Switzerland was the Philippines’ 23rd major trading partner out of 214 countries, 16th largest export market out of 212 countries, and 29th top import supplier out of 171 countries. Switzerland was the Philippines’ fifth largest export market in Europe last year. Switzerland exports pharmaceutical products, watches, chocolates, and machinery to the Philippines, while the country exports machinery, mineral compounds, medical instruments, textiles, and apparel to Switzerland. More than 60 Swiss companies operate in the Philippines, employing 12,000 Filipinos. Swiss firm Nestlé infused last year P4.9-billion worth of investments for its new factory in Tanauan, Batangas.
We congratulate the Department of Trade and Industry headed by Secretary Gregory L. Domingo and Director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and State Secretary for Economic Affairs of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research of the Swiss Confederation Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, and other Officers and Personnel, for their efforts to lay down the framework for intensified economic exchanges between the Republic of the Philippines and Switzerland and other European countries. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!