MANILA, PHILIPPINES — On 14 May 2024, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Allan B. Gepty, along with other high-ranking government officials, engaged with Austrian delegates to discuss the expansion of their trade and economic relations in the 3rd Meeting of the Philippines-Austria Joint Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation.

“Today’s meeting marks a significant step forward in our relations, highlighting our shared commitment to revitalizing the Joint Working Group as a platform for advancing our interests. The areas of cooperation identified in our agenda reflect complementary interests that present opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation,” said Undersecretary Gepty.

The Joint Working Group exchanged information on trade and economic developments, including policy measures that enhance trade and investment relations. Undersecretary Gepty highlighted the resilience of the Philippines, noting it as one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia with a growth rate of 5.7% in the first quarter of 2024, despite global economic challenges.

He emphasized that the government’s commitment to economic reforms is key to creating a more attractive business environment for increased investment. He also shared the trade policy direction of the country towards an open and global market, which will be strengthened by expanding the Philippines’ network of free trade agreements and forging new partnerships, including non-traditional trade partners.

The 3rd Philippines-Austria Joint Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation Meeting convenes with DTI Undersecretary Allan B. Gepty and BMAW Director General Georg Konetzky as co-chairs.

Officials from the DTI and its attached agency, the Board of Investments, Department of Energy, Department of Finance, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Migrant Workers, Department of Transportation, Public-Private Partnership Center, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority participated in the meeting.

The Austrian delegation, led by Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy Director General Georg Konetzky, visited the country to discuss Philippines-Austria relations on various fronts. Their delegation included officials from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, Austrian Federal Chamber of Commerce and the Austrian Business Agency. Private sector representatives from the infrastructure, information technology-business process management (IT-BPM), and educational technologies sectors also attended from both sides.

Philippine and Austrian delegations at the 3rd Philippines-Austria Joint Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation Meeting

Both delegations highlighted the increasing total trade volume, which reached a record of USD 350 million in 2023. Philippine exports to Austria amounted to EUR 201 million with top export products such as integrated circuits, primary batteries, semiconductor devices, office machines, and pineapples.

Meanwhile, imports totaled EUR 149 million, with integrated circuits, semiconductor devices, cigarette paper, medicaments, and AC generators as top import products. Both sides also welcomed the forthcoming Philippines-European Union free trade agreement negotiations, which, among others, bode well for diversifying supply chains and export-import markets.

On investment opportunities, DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo presented the Philippines’ aim to be a hub for smart and sustainable manufacturing and services by empowering the private sector through market-based tools.

He highlighted the country’s competitive advantages, including a young and talented workforce, rich natural resources, and strategic location, as key factors to accelerate growth in priority sectors such as renewable energy, data centers, infrastructure, green metals processing, high-tech agriculture, smart and high-tech light manufacturing, and semiconductors. Notably, these are the sectors in which Austria has built expertise.

Highlighting the importance of the Philippines for Austria, Director General Konetzky said, “First, there is a truly breathtaking economic dynamic in Southeast Asia and especially in the Philippines. There is a lot of potential to broaden our economic footprint in the Philippines and I am glad that Austrian quality products are in high demand. This applies to infrastructure, machinery, equipment, and especially environmental technologies made in Austria. By cooperating, we can advance our common prosperity while protecting our shared planet.”

DTI Undersecretary Gepty and BMAW Director General Konetzky signed the Summary Record of the Meeting

Both sides lauded the burgeoning employment opportunities for Filipino nurses, skilled workers, and professionals in Austria. In 2023, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Recruitment of Filipino Nurses, and the MOU on the Recruitment of Professionals and Skilled Workers were signed. During the meeting, both sides discussed activating these MOUs and exploring potential cooperation in areas such as technical and vocational education and training.

BMAW Director General Konetzky handed over to DTI Undersecretary Gepty the seven business memoranda from Austrian companies

In efforts to strengthen economic ties, both sides also exchanged views on potential cooperation in areas such as financing, infrastructure, green economy technologies, innovation and startups, IT-BPM, electric vehicles, electronics and semiconductors.

Further, the Austrian delegation presented seven business memoranda from Austrian companies looking to intensify their engagement in the Philippines in the fields of energy (hydropower, biogas and natural gas), agriculture, digital education and training, vocational education and training, and bridge infrastructure.

“The reconvening of the Joint Working Group meeting is timely as the Philippines continues to solidify its economic relations with the European Union. Austria’s focused engagement with the Philippines can help expand and boost not only trade and investments but also innovation and people-to-people exchanges between the EU and the Philippines,” DTI Secretary Fred Pascual said. ♦

Date of release: 22 May 2024