15 April 2019

Published also in Business Mirror

THE Philippines and Czech Republic agreed to pursue deeper economic ties as they convened the inaugural meeting of the Philippines-Czech Republic Joint Economic Commission (JEC) on March 28 and 29, 2019, in Prague.

Consistent with the thrust of Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez to engage new trade and investment partners, the Philippine delegation led by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Dr. Ceferino S. Rodolfo Jr. met with Czech counterparts led by Ing. Vladimír Bärtl, deputy minister of Industry and Trade.

The JEC serves as a platform to discuss initiatives to improve bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation. The inaugural JEC meeting sets the tone for future cooperation in areas, such as manufacturing, investments and banking, agriculture and food, energy, transportation, health, tourism, environmental technologies and disaster-risk reduction management.

The JEC allows the Philippines to capitalize on the Czech Republic’s expertise in environmental technologies in water treatment and management, modern agricultural equipment and technologies, and building efficient transportation systems. It also aims to strengthen industry links for manufacturing and promote investments in specific sectors like aerospace, electronics (i.e., Integrated Circuit design) and automotive.

The official Philippine delegation was accompanied by a 12-member business delegation that considers the Czech Republic as an alternative market for products (e.g., sauces, seafood, fish products, coconut products, pet foods, processed food and beverages, garments) and source of investments and partnerships (e.g., construction, electronics, water rehabilitation).

The business delegation led by Rodolfo visited the auto electronics manufacturing facility of Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc. (IMI), a leading Philippine electronics company recognized as one of the top electronics manufacturing services providers globally. The delegation also visited Aero Vodochody aerospace facility to identify potential collaborations between the Philippine and Czech aerospace sectors. Closer collaboration in these areas will be made easier through the signing of the Memorandum of Intent between the Board of Investments and CzechInvest that aims to promote and facilitate investments.

“The convening of the JEC is a strategic means to engage individual EU member-states. The JEC allows us to identify and harness complementation between two of the fastest- growing economies in each other’s regions. We are both gateways to Asia and Europe, and we can also serve as viable markets for each other’s products. In the same way that the Czech Republic is one of the Philippines’s strongest supporters in the EU, we invite them to see the Philippines as their friend in the Asean,” Rodolfo said during the JEC meeting.

The convening of the JEC is in line with the Philippines’s strategy of engaging non-traditional partners in Europe. In 2018, the Czech Republic was the Philippines’s 33rd top trading partner (out of 221), 23rd export market (out of 211), and 42nd import supplier (out of 198), with total trade amounting to $361 million.