The Philippines and EFTA Member States signed a Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Westman Islands, Iceland on 23 June 2014. The signing took place at the Eldheimar Museum, which exhibits the effects the volcanic eruptions on the main island in 1973. From left: Mr Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Iceland; Mr Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, Federal Councillor, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, Switzerland; Mr Norbert Frick, Ambassador, Permanent Representative Permanent Mission in Geneva; Ms Monica Mæland, Minister of Trade and Industry, Norway; Mr Gregory L. Domingo, Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippines and Mr Kristinn F. Árnason, Secretary-General, EFTA.
“Today is a milestone in our bilateral relations. The JDC paves the way for enhanced relations between the PH and EFTA. The opportunities for both sides are tremendous—the Philippines could benefit from the technologies of the EFTA states while EFTA stands to benefit from the economic growth story of the Philippines. We welcome the signing of the JDC; there appears to be a bright future for this agreement hence the Philippines would like to pursue it with vigor,” DTI Secretary Domingo cited in his opening statement.
After the signing, a meeting at the level of chief negotiators of the Philippines and EFTA member states ensued. It discussed the process towards free trade negotiations between the two sides. DTI Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal emphasized that this historic meeting will elevate Philippines-EFTA relations to a higher level. The parties agreed that a Scoping Paper containing the principal terms of references for the scope and the process of the negotiations is due in September with a view of launching negotiations before the end of 2014.