Monday, May 11, 2015

Philippines, Canada boost ties with the signing of bilateral agreements

The Philippines and Canada further strengthened its relations with the signing of several bilateral agreements, including the launch of exploratory discussions towards a possible free trade agreement between the two countries.

President Benigno S. Aquino III and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday (May 9) witnessed the signing of the agreements on trade, development ASSISTANCE, and occupational health and safety, during the president’s state visit at Parliament Hill.

The first document signed was a Letter of Intent between the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada, and the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry on bilateral cooperation on trade and investment.

The cooperation aims to strengthen the longstanding trade and investment relationship by pursuing exploratory discussions on the feasibility of a mutually beneficial and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

The two countries also agreed to work towards upgrading the existing 1996 Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). A modernized FIPA would give Canadian and Filipino investors greater confidence when doing business.

Also, the Philippines and Canada will explore projects and activities under the Canadian Trade and Development Facility in providing trade-related technical services to small-and-medium enterprises.

“On the economic front, the Philippines expresses its appreciation as regards Canada’s offer of assistance through the Canadian Trade and Development Facility, which enables our Small-and-Medium Enterprises to better access the Canadian market,” President Aquino said in a statement after a tête-à-tête with Prime Minister Harper.

“We also look forward to the commencement of exploratory discussions on a possible free trade agreement, the review of our bilateral investment agreement, and the convening of the Joint Working Group on Economic, Trade and Investment. Such steps will indeed redound to the benefit of our respective economies and societies,” the President added.

President Aquino and Prime Minister Harper also witnessed the signing of a five-year Mutual Accountability Framework (MAF) for development cooperation between the governments of the Philippines and Canada. 
President Aquino said the Mutual Accountability Framework “sets in stone our shared desire to support broad-based and sustainable economic growth in the Philippines.”

The MAF establishes the shared commitment of the Philippines and Canada to support broad-based and sustainable economic growth, by making available programs, projects and activities that will create employment, significantly reduce vulnerabilities to poverty, and improve the quality of life of all Filipinos.

Also on Friday, the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety signed a memorandum of understanding on occupational health and safety.

The agreement is intended to raise awareness and understanding regarding the importance of occupational health, safety, and industrial hygiene programs in the workplace.

The said memorandum will also lead to the improvement of existing occupational health and safety policies and reporting mechanisms, as well as to the creation of training courses and tools on best practices in the workplace to avoid illness and injury.

President Aquino is on a three-day state visit to Canada, which included stops in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. (PCOO News Release)

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