The Philippines is a lower middle-income country within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) with a population of 108 million (2019). The third largest economy in the region, the Philippines has achieved sustained rapid economic growth since the beginning of the 2000s. The Philippines aspires to achieve upper middle-income nation status and transition towards a knowledge-intensive and services-driven economy. Growing into a major trading nation with a large domestic market, the Philippines is actively pursuing increased trade openness to achieve its development objectives. The Philippines’ exports are currently a fraction of those recorded by its ASEAN neighbors. At the regional level, the Philippines' total trade with the rest of ASEAN (USD 10.7 bn in 2019) is still far behind Vietnam's (USD 24.6 bn), Indonesia's (USD 41.7 bn), and Thailand's (USD 62.6 bn). This situation applies equally to trade with the EU. The Philippines was the 39th trading partner of the EU in 2019, compared to Thailand (26th), Vietnam (17th), and Indonesia (32nd). The Philippines’ accession to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status in December 2014 offers privileged access to the EU market.

The Duterte Administration released in October 2016 the country’s long-term vision “AmBisyon Natin 2040” as a guide for development planning. Its objective is building a “prosperous, predominantly middle-class society where there is equality of opportunities and poverty has been eradicated.” The Philippines Development Plan 2017-2022 was developed as the first medium-term plan to drive the implementation of “AmBisyon Natin 2040” and rests on three pillars: 1) Enhancing the social fabric, 2) Inequality-reducing transformation, and 3) Increasing growth potential.

In March 2018, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and the Philippines entered into force. The Agreement provides an enhanced legal framework, enabling the European Union and the Philippines to strengthen their bilateral relationship, particularly on political, social, and economic matters. The EU-PHILIPPINES Joint Committee (the highest governance body under the PCA) has established three specialized subcommittees: on Development Cooperation, on Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation, and on Good Governance, Rule of Law, and Human Rights. One of the aims of the EU is to ensure that economic growth goes hand in hand with social justice, respect for human rights, labor rights, and environmental, health, and consumer protection.

The “ASEAN Regional Integration Support – Philippines Trade-Related Technical Assistance (ARISE+ PH)” is a four-year initiative (01/03/2021 – 28/02/2025) funded by the European Union. The specific objective (Outcome) of the initiative is to improve the Philippines’ trade performance and competitiveness.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) is working with various Government Ministries and agencies, as well as public and private sector actors in five output areas to reach its objectives: Philippine operators are better able to identify and implement export priorities (including the EU); an improved National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) promoting export competitiveness; alignment with best practices for quality management and control systems for exported food products; strengthened trade facilitation capacity to implement the Customs Modernisation and Tariffs Act (CMTA) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA); and achievements of the EU-Philippines Partnership are monitored and advertised widely to the Philippine public.