The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), led by Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo, had a meeting with French Ministry of Economy and Finance Head of Bilateral Trade Relations, Mr. Denis Le Fers, on 17 December 2020 to discuss ongoing economic cooperation between the Philippines and France, with the aim of enhancing trade and investment flows. The meeting serves as follow up to the 8th Philippines-France Joint Economic Commission (JEC) held last June 2019 in Manila.
A key highlight of the meeting was the high level of complementation between the existing cooperation initiatives and the actual trade and investment flows between the two countries. There are existing engagements both at the government and private sector levels in priority sectors for manufacturing, such as the electronics, aerospace, and shipbuilding industries.
Undersecretary Rodolfo said: “We have existing cooperation in key sectors in manufacturing and this enhances the trade relationship of Philippine suppliers with major French companies in the electronics and aerospace industries.”
“Equally important is that we also have cooperation that has led to the entry of French investments in the country. The economic reforms we have put in place will further foster these synergies between our governments and businesses,” he added.
The meeting discussed following areas of economic cooperation: infrastructure, transportation, electronics, aerospace and space, aeronautics, renewable energy, and agriculture. New areas of cooperation have also been identified such as disaster risk reduction and management and nuclear energy.
“We continue to engage France given their significant interest to do business in the Philippines. Even if we cannot hold the JEC this year due to the pandemic, it is important that we keep Philippine-French relations active,” Undersecretary Rodolfo stated.
He further explained, “The cooperation initiatives we have been pursuing are confidence-building measures to enable Philippine and French businesses to better harness opportunities presented by the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. It is also worth noting that the Philippines is the only GSP+ beneficiary in the RCEP region.”
Both sides likewise exchanged views on the impact of COVID-19 to the economy. The DTI highlighted the export-ready Philippine-made personal protective equipment (PPEs) and masks that resulted from the domestic industry’s efforts to repurpose their manufacturing operations.
“Even during the pandemic, DTI continues to deepen engagement with several trading partners with the strategic objective of preserving and enhancing market access, attracting investments in crucial sectors to fight the pandemic, and to foster collaboration with country-sources of COVID19-related health products, including vaccines and medicines,” said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Last September 2020, Sec. Lopez led DTI to engage with the Mouvement des Enterprises de France (MEDEF), the leading business association in France, to discuss the opportunities in the Philippines, including the country’s economic recovery plans of building back better.
The meeting with France follows the successful holding by DTI of JECs and co-chairs meetings with the following partners: Indonesia, United Kingdom, Germany, India, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Taiwan, Switzerland, Russia, Hungary, and most recently the European Union (EU).
Both sides agreed to convene the 9th Philippines-France JEC meeting next year.
France serves as one of the 17 key target markets of the recently launched “Make It Happen in the Philippines” campaign, which aims to attract foreign investments into the Philippines by highlighting its potential as an ideal business destination in Asia, due to its resilient human resource and the “make it work” mindset of Filipinos. The campaign currently highlights opportunities in key industries for promotion that have the most potential for foreign investments, such as automotive, aerospace, electronics, IT-BPM and copper/nickel.
France is currently the 2nd largest source of IPA-approved investments from EU this year– which, among others, includes the HyStar hydrogen optimization facility of Air Liquide Philippines in partnership with Pilipinas Shell Corporation.
In 2019, France was the Philippines’ 15th largest trading partner, 14th top import source, and 14th top export market. Among the EU member states, France was the 3rd largest destination of PH exports and 5th top destination of GSP+ exports.