Tomas Alcantara, chair of ABAC Philippines, noted how APEC plays a critical role towards achieving the shared goal of inclusivity which will directly impact the domestic economy. “APEC represents an important region because it accounts for 64% of the Philippines’ foreign direct investments, 84% of its exports, and 63% of the Overseas Filipino population.”
Prospects for Asia-Pacific indicate that the region remains abound with opportunities. According to IMF experts, Asia-Pacific GDP would expand by 5.4% this year, far outstripping the rate of advanced economies at 2%. Forecast for the Philippines is even brighter with the agency predicting a 6.7% growth for 2018. The recent conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership by 11 APEC economies, seen as one of the key pathways to an integrated Asia-Pacific economy, is welcomed as a positive step to regional inclusivity."
Therefore, the Philippines should continue to engage the APEC community with the following strategies: (1) push for greater connectivity, (2) promote further liberalization of trade, (3) adapt to industrialization, and (4) achieve a people-centered development,” explained Mr. Alcantara. He stated that MSME development, the services agenda, and infrastructure finance are among the policy areas where the Philippines is most active.
ABAC PH member Joanne de Asis emphasized in Auckland how infrastructure provides the backbone of an inclusive economy, and that adequate financing is the lifeblood of infrastructure development in the region. “Infrastructure projects are the concrete and tangible outcomes of APEC’s and ABAC’s role in promoting prosperity in the region,” Ms. De Asis said. “Infrastructure finance, particularly an opportunity opening up in a pool of Islamic infrastructure financing, represents an alternative, new channel for funding projects under the government’s Build, Build, Build program. We look forward to playing an active role in this new area of work within ABAC,” she added.
Another big focus of ABAC this year is digital economy. In line with this, the private sector body of APEC has created a new working group that would address digital and innovation issues.
For ABAC Philippines’ Guillermo Luz, digital innovation as a new policy topic within ABAC is particularly relevant for the Philippines, which has a strong service-oriented economy. “We will look at the opportunities and adjustments to the economy that were brought about by technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning, among others. It is estimated that as much as 80% of existing jobs today may be changed significantly or outright eliminated in the next 40-50 years and replaced by even larger number of new jobs. The implications on today’s educational system and curriculum will be massive,” Mr. Luz said.
ABAC 2018 chair David Toua of Papua New Guinea (PNG) explained what this focus on digital innovation means for Asia-Pacific. “The digital economy provides a springboard for small business, women and other disadvantaged groups to take part in trade and connect around the region.” PNG is the chair for 2018 of APEC and ABAC meetings and will host the APEC Summit later this year.
He noted, however, that the full potential of a “Digital Asia-Pacific” could not be realized without investing to counter the digital divide that risks leaving the most vulnerable groups behind. “In all economies, we also need to nurture a future-ready workforce. That means putting in place the right settings for digital infrastructure, skills and education, and region-wide digital business-friendly regulation,” Mr. Toua added.
Explaining the thrust of PNG’s chairmanship for 2018, Mr. Toua said, “Growth is clearly an essential but not a sufficient condition for secure and prosperous communities.” He further stated, “We need to look closely at our economies’ policies to ensure that people can actually take advantage of the opportunities that growth brings. Harnessing inclusive opportunities is a key mantra for this year.”
With this year’s theme, “Digitization and Innovation –Advancing Social Harmony,” other specific priorities discussed in the ABAC meeting include improving connectivity; structural reform especially in the services sector; reducing trade and investment barriers; creating opportunities for MSMEs; strengthening financial systems; and grappling with issues around sustainable growth such as food and energy security.♦
|Secretary Ramon M. Lopez (right) with New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian during their meeting on 7 December 2017.|
MAKATI – The government of New South Wales (NSW) expressed its confidence in the Philippine (PH) economy and wants to explore strengthened trade and investment cooperation ties between PH and NSW.
In a meeting with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez on 7 December 2017, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian conveyed their government’s intention to enhance their relationship with PH.
A state located on the east coast of Australia, NSW imports telecommunication equipment and parts, passenger motor vehicles, medicaments, refined petroleum, and computers.
“We welcome Australian investors and businesses that will help us uplift the lives of those at bottom of the pyramid and enable the Philippines to contribute in the global value chain. New South Wales has expressed strong confidence in our economy and the business environment stability under the Duterte Administration and wish to partner with us,” said Sec. Lopez.
The trade chief highlighted the growing manufacturing sector and encouraged NSW to partner with PH in research and development. The trade chief also shared the PH government’s initiatives in streamlining and automating services to improve doing business in the country.
“We will continue to work on opening areas of investment and increase employment and business opportunities for all Filipinos,” Sec. Lopez added.
Meanwhile, Premier Berejiklian shared that many Australian businesses, especially in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, are attracted to PH’s encouraging economic state and enormous potential. Apart from the impressive 6.9% GDP growth, the NSW premier highlighted the good traits of Filipino workforce and the work culture they have.
With infrastructure-related construction as one of the priority areas for expansion of NSW, Premier Berejiklian also opened the discussion on a possible partnership through the sharing of expertise and technological know-how in the industry.♦
The Department of Trade and Industry welcomes Australia’s Sydney Harbor Tall Ships, a company operating cruises and private charters in Sydney Harbor as they open their call center in the Philippines.
During a meeting with DTI’s Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Sydney (PTIC-Sydney), Philippine Commercial Consul Kenneth Yap noted that SH Tall Ships’ owners cited the talent in the Philippines as one of the main reasons for choosing to locate here. “Filipinos share the same language and outlook as Australians,” Marty Woods, owner of the SH Tall Ships, remarked.
The Philippine operation is intended to support their business offering day trips in Sydney Harbor and exclusive charters, specifically in handling customer queries, bookings and accounting. The Philippine office will be based in Pampanga and will be registered for incentives with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) according to Mr. Yap. SH Tall Ships plans to start with an small complement but expects to grow the workforce based on the demand.
“The fact that we are able to attract big and small companies to set up in the Philippines shows the global competitiveness of the Philippine Information Technology- Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry,’” Yap added.
Sydney Harbor Tall Ships, a company offering cruises on Sydney Harbor on vintage wooden tall ships is owned and operated by husband and wife Marty and Lisa Woods. Among the famous ships they operate are the Southern Swan and the Soren Larsen.
Considered a “famous star of the sea”, the Soren Larsen was a cargo carrier sailing between Scandinavia, Iceland, Northern Europe and Britain. It was featured in a BBC TV series and on two European Films. It was also selected as the flagship of the First Re-enactment Voyage celebrating Australia’s Bicentennial. An accomplished voyager, the Soren Larsen sailed around the world visiting 25 countries and travelled 30,000 nautical miles.
PASAY CITY—As part of the government’s objective to strengthen its economic relations with external partners, the Philippines (PH) recently (10 September 2017) discussed with Australia (AU) and New Zealand (NZ) bilateral trade issues to bring the Philippine relations with these two countries into a more strategic direction.
At the sidelines of the PH hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting and Related Meetings, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, who also serves as the 2017 AEM chairperson, convened separate bilateral meetings with Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Steven Ciobo, as well as with New Zealand Member of Parliament Chester Borrows.
|PH Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez convened a bilateral meeting with Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Steven Ciobo at the sidelines of the PH hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings.|
Sec. Lopez and Minister Ciobo discussed bilateral trade issues to enable PH to increase its exports to AU. In particular, Sec. Lopez raised the anti-dumping duty imposed on PH canned pineapples and resealable can end closures, as well as inquired as to AU’s processes to facilitate the entry of PH bananas to AU. Minister Ciobo reassured the DTI head of AU’s full cooperation with regard to the anti-dumping issues. He also expounded on AU’s quarantine procedures.
The Australian Minister highlighted that Australian businesses are looking into investing in PH, given the improved business environment in the country. However,
Minister Ciobo also raised the issue on the 60-40 foreign equity participation, to which Sec. Lopez remarked, “The government is trying to revise and repeal the relevant laws to enable increased investments to the country”.
PH also expressed its appreciation for all the assistance extended, in particular, those provided by the AU-led Aid for Trade initiative, as well as the scholarships granted to Filipino students through the Australia Awards.
Noting that AU is PH’s 16th major trading partner in 2016, with total trade valued at USD 1.38 billion, the DTI chief underscored that PH is open to doing more business missions ,which will provide an avenue for business in PH and AU to cite opportunities, as well as increase trade between both countries.
Meanwhile, Sec. Lopez also met with NZ Member of Parliament Chester Borrows same day.
The trade chief and the parliamentarian discussed how PH can look to NZ as an example for initiatives to improve the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) in PH, noting that NZ ranks 1st for EODB.
|PH Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez (3rd from L) and other PH trade officials convened a bilateral meeting with New Zealand’s Member of Parliament Chester Borrows (3rd from R) and other New Zealand officials at the sidelines of the PH hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings.|
PH also shared that various government agencies, in particular the DTI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue have already streamlined procedures to facilitate businesses, and that other relevant government agencies are in the processes of improving their current systems.
“Key effort now is further streamlining and integration of the information system of the various agencies to cut the entire registration process into less than one hour once automated,” highlighted Sec. Lopez, adding the proposal to conduct more workshops/process studies with regard to EODB with NZ’s support.♦