MANILA – The Philippines is a popular investment site for European Union (EU) businessmen, representatives of the EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) told House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez during their meeting on Tuesday.
The six representatives, who were from the biggest-ever business delegation from the EU, spoke glowingly of the country’s strong economic performance, and expressed their interest to expand business and trade relations with the Philippines, according to a news release from the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The delegation consisted of 70 business persons from 36 European multinational companies.
Noel Clehane, Global Head of Regulatory & Public Policy for BDO (Binder Dijker Otte) and Board Member of EU-ABC, informed Romualdez that they have been engaging with EU lawmakers to push for a free trade agreement with the Philippines, among others.
“We have been highlighting to them that this region (Southeast Asia), particularly the Philippines, is the most attractive in the world for European businesses,” he added.
Clehane said their excitement about business prospects in the Philippines is borne by an annual survey that they have been doing for the past eight years.
As a result, he said EU lawmakers are now “becoming more alert” to exploring expanded trade relations with the Philippines.
Meanwhile, delegation head, Jens Ruebbert, Managing Director and Regional Head Asia/Pacific for Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg and Vice Chairman of the EU-ABC, also noted the strong growth and solid economic fundamentals of the Philippines.
The Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) posted a growth of 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, resulting in a 7.6 percent full-year growth in 2022, and has grown by 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2023.
“That’s extremely well recognized in the business world,” Ruebbert pointed out.
He also noted that inflation is on the downtrend, the peso is stable as opposed to currencies in other countries, while the interest rate environment is “an equation of what’s going on in the world.”
“Probably the highest hike in the region has helped you to sustain and get things under control. So big congratulations for the economic situation, which is I think the basis for motivating European Union and other foreign companies to further invest and further extend trade with the Philippines,” he added.
Ruebbert also noted that in a separate meeting on Monday with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Felipe Medialla, the latter has “demonstrated very nicely and clearly that the economic path and recovery path the Philippines is taking is all on a very, very good track,”
“40 percent of the world supply chain pass through your territorial waters or at least close to it. So, the geopolitical reasons for doing it (EU-PH free trade agreement) are significant; the economic reasons are compelling,” Ruebbert pointed out.
The other members of the EU-ABC group who met with Romualdez include Diana Edralin, General Manager, Roche Philippines; Dom Lavigne, Yara International Director of Public Affairs and Corporate Communications – Africa & Asia; Charlie Simpson, Airbus Chief Representative to the Philippines; and Cyrus Isles of Bayer.
Among others, the group expressed willingness to cooperate with the Philippine government in various areas such as health, agriculture, renewable energy, and transportation.
The EU-ABC mission seeks to follow the gains achieved in the successful visit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to Brussels last December and highlight the importance of the Philippines as a trade and investment destination for European Industry.
The House Speaker lauded the efforts of the EU-ABC, and informed them of the initiatives of Congress, in line with the policies of the Marcos administration, to “make the Philippines a more inviting host for business investments and economic activities.”
“We’re here to see how (we) can help. We would like to support, we would like to assist. We’d like to be aware of the challenges so we could address them together,” Romualdez assured the EU delegation.
Also present during the meeting were Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, Camiguin Rep. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo, Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, Pangasinan Rep. Rachel Arenas, and Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe. (PNA)