By: Maria Paula Tolentino

Metro Manila – August 7, 2019 – Described as a landmark trade deal, the ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand Free Trade Area or AANZFTA is the ASEAN’s most comprehensive trade transaction and Australia’s most ambitious free trade agreement to date.

On 27 February 2009, Australia, New Zealand and country members of the ASEAN signed a Free Trade Agreement called AANZFTA, that took effect a year later, January 1, 2010. Signed by 12 parties (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), AANZFTA is treated as a ‘living document’ with benefits that include: 1. eliminating tariffs by at least 90%; 2. transparent and flexible movement of goods; 3. simplified customs procedures; 4. liberal market access to service suppliers; 5. easier movement of business persons engaged in trade and investment; and 6. investment protection via the utilization of investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.

In line with the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, AANZFTA aims for sustainable economic growth in the region by providing a more liberal, facilitative, and transparent market among its twelve signatories. According to its secretariat, AANZFTA opens opportunities for approximately 663 million peoples of ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand.

On August 7, 2019, the Philippines Australia Business Council (PABC), with guidance from Philippine Ambassador to Australia, H.E. Ambassador Ma. Hellen B. De La Vega, requested a meeting with the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) to work towards holding an event participated in by the government and private sectors to assess the track record of usage of the ANZFTAA and to further promote its utilization by Philippine exporters and traders.

This meeting was attended by DTI Assistant Secretary, Industry Development and Trade Policy, Atty. Allan Gepty; PABC Vice Chairman, Thomas Aquino; PABC Chairman and Quisumbing Torres Partner Atty. Dennis Quintero; DTI Chief, Regional Relations & Arrangement Division, Bureau of International Trade Relations, Myrene Bendaño; and the OLLI Consulting Group Inc. Digital Consultant Paula Tolentino.

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“Through the PABC, we would like to help promote Philippine businesses and brief our local businessmen through a FGD (Focused Group Discussion) that could propel more talks, excitement and movement for the AANZFTA treaty” says Quintero. 

“We hope to see more investing done in the Philippines. This can be effectively exhausted by utilizing AANZFTA. Through AANZFTA, the Philippines is granted special preference for exports and imports for partner countries who have signed under AANZFTA. A business-confidence boosting strategy both for the Philippines and their counterpart traders” says Aquino.

Aquino adds that the issuance of a special kind of VISA for both Filipino and Australian traders is a strategy that could make AANZFTA more attractive, thereby easier to sell. This statement was further strengthened by Bendańo when she mentioned that under the EMB (Export Market Bureau) “The Philippines is the number 1 user of Certificate of Origin (COO) under AANZFTA”.

PABC together with its government partner, the DTI, hopes to finalize the details of this proposal by October of this year. PABC is looking at inviting reputable Filipino exporters to share best practices, how they have taken advantage of AANZFTA with focus on tangible benefits to their business. The DTI on the other hand, looks at making this event with PABC a regular and consistent discussion to further strengthen Filipino businesses. 

For more information on AANZFTA, refer to below links:

The Philippines – Australia Business Council (PABC) meet with the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) Officers to discuss utilizing the AANZFTA agreement for Filipino export and import traders. Featured in this photo are (L-R) Paula Tolentino of the OLLI Consulting Group Inc., PABC Vice Chairman Thomas Aquino, Assistant Secretary, Industry Development and Trade Policy, Atty. Allan Gepty, PABC Chairman and Quisumbing Torres Partner Atty. Dennis Quintero and DTI Chief, Regional Relations & Arrangement Division, Bureau of International Trade Relations, Myrene Bendaño.


Maria Paula Tolentino is the Chief Content Officer of SEM Scribe Publishing House, a boutique digital communications agency. She is also the Vice-President for Mining group Diwata – Women in Resource Development, Inc. and a Consultant for the OLLI Consulting Group, Inc.

For more information, she may be reached at the following:,, and

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