Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 13 July 2017
Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
Framework Agreement between European Union and Republic of the Philippines: Motion
I thank the Chairman and members for giving me the opportunity to discuss the motion referred to the select committee for consideration. The motion Dáil Éireann has been asked to approve reads:
That Dáil Éireann approve the terms of the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of the Philippines, of the other part, signed at Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 11 July 2012, a copy of which was laid before the Dáil on 1 June 2017.
The main objective of the agreement is to provide a framework for a strengthening of the bilateral relationship between the European Union and the Philippines. The agreement will provide for comprehensive and wide-ranging dialogue between the European Union and the Philippines, including co-operation in a wide range of areas such as trade and investment, human rights, development, civil society, disaster management, energy, tourism, the environment, asylum and migration, science and technology, as well as maritime and aviation transport, agriculture and health. It is also, of course, expected to benefit the people of the Philippines and the Philippine economy.
There are no bilateral agreements between Ireland and the Philippines. Our political, economic and cultural contacts with the Philippines have increased in recent years and the potential to expand further. For many years Irish missionaries have taught in schools and worked in parishes across the country and although their numbers have dwindled, their vital work continues today. In recent years there has been a considerable increase in the number of Filipino citizens living and working in Ireland, particularly in the health sector. Some 3,500 Irish citizens identify themselves as Irish-Filipino. The Irish community in the Philippines is small - approximately 500- and they work predominantly as missionaries and, more recently, in sectors which include ICT and telecoms, construction, renewables and energy.
Our bilateral trade with the Philippines has increased in recent years. In 2016 total merchandise trade was valued at €257 million, with exports and imports being of almost equal value, at €134 million and €123 million, respectively. In 2015 total services exports were valued at €169 million. The beef industry has been particularly successful in recent years in accessing the Philippines market. In 2016 we exported over 14,000 tonnes of beef to this market which has a population of over 102 million.
Ireland also provided funding and supplies worth more than €3.5 million in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda. A team of Irish Aid technical experts visited in December 2013 to conduct a needs assessment. The former Minister of State, Deputy Joe Costello, visited in March 2014 to evaluate programmes supported by Irish Aid, and members of this committee visited the Philippines later in the same year.
We need to build our profile and reputation in countries with which we do not have long-standing historical associations. Strengthening our bilateral relationships with such countries is all the more important as we adjust to new political and commercial realities in the run-up to Brexit. This is reflected in the Government’s commitment to deliver a new cross-sectoral strategy for the Asia-Pacific region, and this is under development.
That said, the EU, including Ireland, has expressed strong concerns about the deterioration in the human rights situation over the past year, including extrajudicial killings associated with a so-called war on drugs and the possible reintroduction of the death penalty. The partnership and co-operation agreement is based on a commitment to promoting respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights. It will introduce a framework for a human rights dialogue with the Philippines, which will provide a forum for discussion of these concerns with the authorities there. The agreement also addresses issues in the area of money laundering, illicit drugs, organised crime and combating terrorism.
This agreement is the first between the EU and the Philippines since the 1980 EC co-operation agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has served as the primary legal framework for Philippines-EU relations until now. As the agreement is a mixed competence agreement, it must also be ratified by all EU member states as well as by the European Union. Ireland has signed but not yet ratified the agreement and is one of only two member states, the other being Greece, that has not yet completed the necessary ratification procedures. It is important that Ireland makes the necessary arrangements to ratify the agreement as it will not enter into force until the first day of the month following the date on which the last party has notified the others of the completion of the legal procedures necessary for this purpose. The Philippines has signalled its intention to ratify the agreement by August 2017. If Ireland is the last EU member state to ratify the agreement, this will be the final impediment to the agreement’s entry into force. The agreement was signed on 11 July 2012. It was endorsed during the plenary session of the European Parliament on 8 June 2016.
I again thank the committee. I hope this motion will meet with the committee’s approval and that Dáil Éireann will approve the terms of the agreement in order that Ireland can proceed to ratify it very soon. I am willing to take questions at this point.