From Left to Right – French Treasury Deputy Director Denis Le Fers, DTI Secretary Fred Pascual, French Foreign Trade Minister Olivier Becht, and DTI Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty

PARIS, FRANCE – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual and Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, Economic Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad Olivier Becht expressed full commitment to deepen economic cooperation, trade, and investment between the Philippines and France during the 10th Joint Economic Committee (JEC) meeting held on 20 June 2023.

The two ministers convened the 10th JEC on Tuesday, which involved high-level discussions and commitments on bilateral cooperation in infrastructure and transportation, aeronautics, renewable and other energy sources, agriculture, electronics, maritime industry, and shipbuilding sectors.

During the opening session, Sectary Pascual highlighted, “Among the thirty-three (33) JECs the Philippines has, France is one of the few JECs we hold at the Ministerial level. This fact highlights France’s important role in our overall relations with Europe. Indeed, we accord high importance to the JEC as a mechanism to continuously enhance our economic relations, particularly in trade and investments.”

More French Investments and Infrastructure Projects  

The main highlight of the JEC is the presentation of concrete deliverables and proposals on air transport service, infrastructure, agriculture, and energy. Minister Becht presented to Secretary Pascual three letters of intent extending French expertise and technical support in developing the Philippines’ dairy industry; and concrete proposals of Aéroports de Paris (ADP) on aviation and the French Treasury and Matière on road bridges.

Further, the Trade Ministers witnessed the signing of the two separate Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) that were signed by the National Power Corporation (NPC) and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) with Hydrogène de France (HDF) to facilitate the development of renewable energy and hydrogen power plants in the Philippines, the first project of its kind to be undertaken in Southeast Asia.

Both countries vowed to continue cooperation on ongoing projects such as the commitment of OCEA, a French company, to build a shipyard in the Philippines, technical cooperation on maritime safety through the placement of a French marine expert in Manila, and on nuclear energy through an upcoming study mission.

It can be recalled that during the 9th PH-FR JEC in July 2021, we welcomed OCEA’s pledged investment worth PHP1.5 billion in shipyard development in the Philippines. The company likewise renewed this commitment during the President’s visit to Belgium in December last year. The Philippines also received 26 French companies from the MEDEF Business Delegation headed by CEO Philippe Matière in October 2022. And just last month, the Philippines’ flag carrier—Philippine Airlines signed an MOU with Airbus for the purchase of nine (9) units of Airbus aircraft.

During the technical session of the JEC led by DTI Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty and Deputy Director Denis Le Fers, the Philippines likewise expressed its continued interest in forging space cooperation with the Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French Space Agency. On 28 November 2022, following CNES’ invitation during the last JEC meeting, PhilSA signed the Space for Climate Observatory (SCO) Charter, making it the National Focal Point (NFP) of the Philippines in the French-led climate resilience initiative.

Meanwhile, on aviation, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Deputy Director General Edgardo Diaz reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to the MOU with the Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC) or the French Civil Aviation Authority, which was renewed in 2021. Both sides welcomed the ongoing discussion with Thales on air traffic management.

Updates on transportation and infrastructure projects were also discussed during the meeting. These include the existing ventures of French companies, such as Colas Rail, Alstom, Thales, and Egis, on the Metro Manila Subway and North-South Commuter Railway projects. Likewise, the status of projects on bus rapid transit, train signaling systems, and urban cable car was also tackled.

On agriculture, France conveyed their focus on supporting the development of the Philippines’ dairy industry, which includes a possible deployment of a French dairy expert. France also shared their efforts in fighting the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) through zoning and vaccination.

The ongoing study on the Philippines’ electronic industries was also discussed during the meeting. This will pave the way for possible future partnerships in electronics, in support of the existing linkages such as the MOU between the ACSIEL Alliance Electronique and Semiconductor & Electronics Industries in the Philippines (SEIPI).

Apart from these significant opportunities and concrete government and private sector partnerships, Secretary Pascual highlighted nickel processing as a potential area for collaboration, taking into consideration two things: (1) The French territory of New Caledonia having significant nickel resources and is a major supplier of processed nickel for battery manufacturers, and (2) France as a global leader on electric vehicles. These are two sub-sectors where the Philippines has significant aspirations.

Increased bilateral trade and investment figures

Both Trade Ministers also underscored the growing trade and investment figures. In 2022, total trade between the Philippines and France grew to USD 1.8 billion, up by 23 percent, from its 2021 level of USD1.5 billion. In particular, Philippine exports to France were up by nearly 50 percent from USD 514 million in 2021 to USD756 million in 2022.

Top products included electronics products, spectacle lenses, parts of airplanes, desiccated coconuts, and semiconductor devices. French exports similarly increased by 9 percent from USD990 million in 2021 to USD1 billion in 2022. The products include airplanes, medicaments, electronics, handbags, and meat products.

On the investment front, France is one of the Philippines’ top sources of foreign investments from the EU, with six-year total investments from 2017 to 2022 of PHP6.7 billion or USD130 million. These investments were in manufacturing; electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning, supply; wholesale and retail trade; transportation and storage; information and communication; and administrative and support service activities.

Strong Call for the Renewal of the EU-GSP+ and PH-EU FTA

DTI Secretary Fred Pascual and French Foreign Trade Minister Olivier Becht

Supporting increased bilateral trade, Secretary Pascual underscored the benefits of the European Union’s (EU) Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) in enabling the Philippines to enjoy broader market access and significantly boosting exports to the EU. With this, he called on France’s support for the renewal of the country’s GSP+ status.

France is the Philippines’ 3rd largest GSP+ market, 35 percent of Philippine exports to France, including exporters of spectacle lenses, crude coconut oil, vacuum cleaners, and tuna, benefit from the GSP+ scheme. Our GSP+ exports to France amounted to EUR309 million in 2022.

In addition, the Trade and Industry Secretary underlined the timely resumption of the PH-EU free trade agreement (FTA). He said, “The Philippine-EU FTA will continue the inroads provided by the EU-GSP+, including for micro, small, and medium enterprises. This FTA would maintain the preferences under the GSP+ and expand the scope of market access for goods, services, and investments, as well as include other fields that will facilitate trade between our two countries.”

In closing, Secretary Pascual emphasized that the Indo-Pacific region remains the center of all global engagements, especially on the economic front. EU’s presence in the region is a must, and the Philippines can serve as a reliable country that shares the same values and principles that the EU stands for.

The Philippines-France JEC is the longest-running dialogue between the Philippines and a European country since the JEC was established in 1994. As the meeting ended, both countries agreed to convene the 11th Philippines-France JEC meeting in Manila. *

Date of release: 23 June 2023