MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is seen moving into the upper half of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations in terms of being a preferred investment destination among European companies despite ongoing issues that have saddled their interest in the country.
Even as the Philippine economy continues to post one of the fastest growth rates in the region, EU-ASEAN Business Council executive director Chris Humphrey said the country is currently “hovering at the middle of table” in the region in terms of investment interest among European firms.
“Vietnam has moved up because of the FTA (free trade agreement with the European Union). Singapore is always near the top historically. Indonesia will always be a big interest because of the size of the economy,” Humphrey told The STAR in an interview.
Humphrey, however, said the Philippines is forecast to move up the ladder in the coming years, particularly once its own FTA with the EU is in place.
The Philippines and the EU concluded a couple of weeks ago the second round of negotiations of the EU-Philippines FTA which, according to EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen, “went well.”
The negotiations aim to conclude a deal that covers a broad range of issues such as elimination of customs duties and other barriers to trade, services and investment, access to public procurement markets, and additional disciplines in the area of competition and protection of intellectual property rights.
“We see great opportunities here. Once the FTA is in place you’ll see European interest accelerate,” Humphrey said.
Aside from the FTA, the EU-ASEAN Business Council official cited a number of factors seen driving European interest further in the country.
“The increasingly liberal trade and investment policies coming up for the Philippines coupled with huge growth rates, a young population, and a largely untapped market make the Philippines a very attractive place, which means you’re going to be moving up that table of interest very quickly,” he said.
“Looking forward, the Philippines will certainly be in the upper half in the region because of these reasons. So I think the Philippines is certainly moving up in the ladder,” Humphrey added.
Last week, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines executive director Florian Gottein said European companies belonging to small and medium category are the only ones eager in entering the Philippine market at present, while multinational and blue chip firms are putting their investments on hold as a result of a series of statements made by President Duterte in recent months against the EU.
The country’s planned revival of the death penalty and the alleged extrajudicial killings have also placed the Philippines Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) privileges with the EU at risk.
“The view of the EU on capital punishment is very clear. We do not support of course. To be an EU member you have to abolish capital punishment, it’s something that we have strong views on,” Jessen has said.