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Friday, March 13, 2009

‘Expand trade relations with Australia’

Senator Chiz Escudero on Friday called on the Arroyo administration toexpand economic relations with Australia by working out an agreementon the exportation of agricultural products, especially after itrecently allowed the entry of bananas from the Philippines.

“We have much to gain if we can export other agricultural products toAustralia. While most of the time we look up north for tradeopportunities, it is high time that we look down south,” Escudero saidin a statement.

The Philippines is one of the three largest exporters of bananas inthe world and it constitutes about 15 percent of the entire farmoutput in the country. Most of its banana produce are sent to US andJapan.

“We have never exported banana to that country because of fears thatour produce carry diseases. We just have to comply with their strictstandards, it is now up to us to make this work,” Escudero said.

The senator said the Philippine government should start focusing onhow to meet the “very stringent” standards of Australia when it comesto the importation of agricultural products.

The senator returned last Wednesday from a four-day visit to Australiawhere he met with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and other toplabor, trade, and immigration officials.

“Australian government officials assured me that Australia is ready tofurther strengthen bilateral ties with the Philippines,” Escuderosaid.

“I urge the government to capitalize on this fresh opportunity andpursue with renewed vigor the expansion of trade with Australia,” headded.

Aside from banana, the senator said the other major Philippineagricultural exports include coconut oil and other coconut products;milk and cream powder; and fish and seafood, among others.

Escudero pointed out that the ASEAN region is Australia’s biggesttrading partner, but the Philippines is lagging behind its neighborsas it cornered only around $2 billion out of the $71-billion worth ofproducts of the regional bloc’s total trade with Australia.

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