EU seeks to strengthen trade ties with small, medium firms in PH

June 09, 2014 News

European Union seeks to strengthen its ties with small and medium-sized enterprises in the country with the creation of a new business network that will strengthen links between the 28-member bloc and the Philippines.

The EU-Philippines Business Network (EPBN), which will be implemented by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and its partner chambers, is expected to facilitate networking activities of SMEs from the EU and the Philippines and help enhance the success rate of business matching activities, said ECCP vice president for external relations Henry Schumacher.

In an interview on the sidelines of the 1st EU-­Philippines Business Dialogue last week, Schumacher said the EPBN had three main tasks, one of which was to identify and highlight the available business opportunities in the Philippines and make these known to the SMEs in the European Union.

According to Schumacher, the first three industries were identified and presented during the recent dialogue.

These were construction and retrofitting; consumer goods and retail; and energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"There are so many more industries as we are looking at 15 sectors in all where opportunities are available. These also include mining, tourism, manufacturing and so on," he added.

Helena Koenig, directorate general for trade of the European Commission, noted that European companies were keen to invest in the Philippines as they want to tap and contribute to the country's robust economic development.

During the EU­-Philippines business dialogue, Koenig cited the great strides that the Aquino ad­ ministration had taken in terms of governance and economic development, which, she added, provide a good basis for increased trade and investment.

"This is a good moment to invest in the Philippines, the best time for investments that create jobs and trade," Koenig said, as she pointed put improvements in the country's macroeconomic stability and in the ease of doing business; political developments such as the signing of the peace agreement in Mindanao; and the investment grade ; ratings received from major credit ratings agencies.

"This is a region that is attracting a lot of interest [from investors].

What we have seen before was a huge interest in China, but over the last years, the interest is expanding as companies are looking for other markets in the region beyond China. Asean countries, with Philippines being one of them, have a great chance to benefit from that [interest]," she added.

There are about 600 European companies in the Philippines, employing about 500,000.

As of end­ 2013, the EU was the Philippines' largest investment partner, accounting for about 30 percent of the country's total foreign direct investments.

The EU is also the country's fourth largest trading partner.

Meanwhile, the EPBN will also be tasked to help facilitate the business matching activities and the entry of European SMEs in the local market.

"Doing business in the Philippines is not so easy and if we can match people who know the local market, then the European SMEs can bring technology and new ideas. It will be beneficial for both sides," Schumacher said.


Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, 09 June 2014