Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Japanese Companies investment interests in the Philippines

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez met with senior executives of Japan's seven major trading houses in Tokyo recently (March 1, 2017) to discuss President Rodrigo Duterte's economic programs and Japanese Companies investment interests in the Philippines, conservatively valued at Php198.5B.


During a breakfast dialogue, Lopez—together with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and PH Ambassador-Designate Jose Laurel V—got together with representatives of the sogo shoshas or Japanese companies with a broad range of business activities. Companies present at the meeting were Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsui and Co., Ltd., Sumitomo Corporation, Itochu Corporation, Marubeni Corporation, Toyota Tsusho, and Sojitz.


"Through sound and consistent macroeconomic policies, the country continues to attract serious investments. The fundamentals are there in terms of a fast-growing economy, a 109-million population base, standing trade agreements, and a young, talented, and dedicated work force," Sec. Lopez said on the Japanese companies' willingness to investment in the Philippines.


"All these—plus political will and focused trade and investment policies—act as a magnet for foreign investments," Sec. Lopez added.


The investment interests of the sogo shoshas would cover the period spanning late 2016 to 2020, and include:

  • Marubeni willing to invest in additional coal power plants worth Php75B over the medium term;
  • Itochu and Sumitomo (through PH subsidiaries Dole and Sumifru respectively) willing to invest an additional Php12.9B through 2018 to expand their integrated farming projects in Mindanao;
  • Sumitomo, Sojitz, and Mitsui jointly invested in Coral Bay Nickle Corporation and Taganito High Pressure Acid Leaching (THPAL) Nickle Corporation in Surigao and Palawan, at a cost of Php80B;
  • The CARS program, under the DTI-driven Manufacturing Resurgence Strategy, enjoying the support and participation of Mitsubishi, Sojitz, Mitsui, and Toyota Tsusho; and, 
  • All 7 trading houses expressing interest in the Philippines' "Golden Age of Infrastructure," i.e. the Railway and Subway Projects, the Clark Green City Project, the Expanded Port and RoRo Building Programs, and the Airport Development Projects.

"With DTI's inclusive business model, our resource-based country has the potential to become a major supplier to the world by fostering value chain linkages and partnerships between the MSMEs as suppliers of goods and services, and the large enterprises as buyers," Sec. Lopez said.


When asked about the Philippine government's mining and tax policies, Secretaries Tugade and Lopez responded that government reforms are being crafted along balanced and fair consideration of both industry and consumer interests.


They also assured investors that with public sector agencies rigidly adhering to President Rodrigo Duterte's zero corruption dictum, projects would receive adequate protection and fair treatment.


The two officials likewise encouraged the Japanese trading houses to use their expansive business systems to help in planning an efficient set of economic infrastructure, such as farm-to-market roads, bridges, seaports, airports, railways for cargo, passengers and RORO vessels, and service providers. 

Philippines hosting ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting

MAKATI—The Philippines successfully advocated its trade priorities in ASEAN as the country's hosting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting (AEM) Retreat and Related Meetings ends (10 March), laying the groundwork for the 49th AEM in September.


The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) led by Secretary Ramon Lopez secured endorsements from ASEAN Economic Ministers on the timely realization of Philippine priority deliverables for 2017.


"Aside from championing our trade agenda as a country, we are also able to advance the economic agenda of our fellow ASEAN Member States (AMS); thus, bringing our domestic interest to the regional platform," said Sec. Lopez, who chaired the AEM Retreat and Related Meetings, adding that AMS' endorsements will strengthen the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025.


"Our objective is to make AEC work and to make AEC felt in the day-to-day experience of Filipinos," said Philippine lead Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo, who presented before the Meeting the summary of priority deliverables.


Innovative, inclusive growth


"The Philippines is taking the lead in seeking new policy interventions that are expected to contribute towards helping MSMEs harness the opportunities presented by open and increasingly integrated markets," said Sec. Lopez.


A self-certification scheme for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) will allow the sector to partake in the benefits of the free trade agreementswhile the action agenda on investment, inclusive business and women and youth entrepreneurship will strengthen the investment linkages between MSMEs and Multinational Enterprises (MNEs)—a thrust that Sec. Lopez has been pushing in the domestic front to foster inclusive development towards shared prosperity for all.


Aligned with the inclusive growth agenda is the endorsement of the ASEAN Declaration on Innovation, which advocates for an enabling ecosystem that supports entrepreneurial activities in technology and innovation.

"Inclusive business will allow companies to engage the poor and low-income communities as partners, customers, suppliers, and employees in their supply chains because it makes good business sense," added Usec. Rodolfo.


Connectivity, services, private sector


The AEM Retreat also touched on the launching of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung route of the ASEAN Roll-on Roll-off (RORO) Network, a system that will both enhance intra-regional connectivity and bolster socio-economic growth in the regions.


On the services sector, the endorsement of the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA) means fostering a more transparent trade in services, boosting further contribution and competitiveness of the services sectors in ASEAN.


The meeting also explored on convening regular dialogue with the private sector to highlight its business priorities and recommendations, as well as identify ways to complement existing public efforts toward taking full advantage of opportunities under the AEC.


"Public-private sector engagement not only reduces the gap of understanding of the private sector and the general public on ASEAN, it also promotes intra-ASEAN and global trade and investment and reduces current and future impediments faced by business enterprises," Sec. Lopez added.




The AEM Retreat discussed preparations for the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN, which coincides with the Philippines' ASEAN chairmanship.


An equally relevant element of this chairmanship is the push to achieve considerable progress on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), showcasing ASEAN's headship in bringing about a regional partnership that integrates major economic players China, Japan, India, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.


The shared optimism on RCEP will mean more foreign investments and more dynamic trade and business alliances. As noted by DTI, RCEP will expand the ASEAN market of 600 million to 3.5 billion as it will include ASEAN's six Dialogue Partners—that accounts for almost half of the world's population, representing a huge integrated market base.


This expanded economic partnership is seen to shape the future of trade and economic liberalization in Asia. At the backdrop of recent economic uncertainties and rising protectionism, RCEP is poised to keep the momentum of trade as an engine for regional and global economic growth.


"The chairmanship is an event to strengthen the enduring ties that bind us all and an important occasion to reaffirm the shared aspirations and values which will lead us to our envisioned integration come 2025," Usec. Rodolfo concluded.


The Philippine hosting of the ASEAN Summit to be chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte will be held next month, while the bigger meeting 49th AEM is scheduled in September 2017. 

ASEAN Economic Ministers' Retreat Meeting and Related Meetings

PREPARATORY MEETING FOR THE ASEAN ECONOMIC MINISTERS' RETREAT MEETING. Senior trade officials from 10 ASEAN Members States (AMS) met on 8 March 2017 to refine points of discussion and agenda items for the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Retreat Meeting and Related Meetings to be held tomorrow, 9 March. Increasing trade and investment, integrating the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the global value chains and developing an innovation-driven economy are the identified measures to complement the thematic priority on inclusive, innovation-led growth, as the Philippines chairs ASEAN this year on its 50th anniversary. From Left to Right: Lao PDR - Ministry of Industry and Commerce Deputy Director General Sayakone Saysana, Malaysia - Ministry of International Trade and Industry Deputy Secretary General Datuk Isham Ishak, Myanmar -  Ministry of Finance Htun Zaw Deputy Director General, Thailand - Department of Trade of Negotiations Deputy Director General Ronnarong Phoolpipat, Vietnam - Ministry of Industry and Trade Deputy Director General Nguyen Thi Quynh Nga, Philippines - Department of Trade and Industry, Assistant Secretary Anna Maria Rosario D. Robeniol, Singapore - Ministry of Trade and Industry Director Sulaimah Mahmood, Brunei - Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Assistant Director Narussa'adah Muraharram, Cambodia - Ministry of Commerce Deputy Director General Prasith Suon,Indonesia - Ministry of Trade Director Donna Gultom, ASEAN Secretariat Deputy Secretary General Hong Hin Lim.

ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in the Philippines

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is poised to champion the Philippine trade agenda as it takes helm of the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) Retreat and Related Meetings on 8-10 March 2017 to be participated in by the 10 trade ministers from ASEAN Member States (AMS).


As lead agency for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Pillar, DTI led by Secretary Ramon Lopez will promote one of the current thematic priorities of ASEAN on "inclusive, innovation-led growth" for shared prosperity. The other two pillars touch on politico-security and socio-cultural.


Increasing trade and investment, integrating the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the global value chains and developing an innovation-driven economy are the identified measures to achieve said priority.


"Our strategic measures are consistent with our current agenda to promote employment and entrepreneurship. The AEM is an excellent platform to push for the country's core thrusts on trade and investment, MSME development and innovation," said Sec. Lopez, who will serve as the chair of AEM Retreat and Related Meetings.


The trade chief, however, ensured that his meeting's chairmanship will be "fair, workable, rational and inclusive" among AMS. 


The AEM aims at strengthening partnership with stakeholders to expand knowledge and utilization of ASEAN-related free trade and economic agreements, provisions and initiatives, including the benefits that an ASEAN national can receive.


The trade chief aims to give meaning to these highly-technical engagements, in a manner that ASEAN nationals, including the Filipinos, can identify how they can benefit from the opportunities posed by regional integration without fear and hesitation.


"It's time for us to make people feel that their membership in ASEAN is relevant to their day-to-day experience," he said, adding that DTI's hosting also presents good opportunity to raise awareness, to promote understanding on the AEC and the Philippine participation in it, and to re-tell the country's growth story.


On increasing trade and investment, Sec. Lopez emphasized that the creation of a sound policy environment and the right mix of support programs are crucial to improve the capacity of businesses to expand, upgrade and diversify. He mentioned that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an agreement involving the 10 AMS and the six Dialogue Partners will expand the ASEAN market from 600 million to 3.5 billion. DTI will be pushing for the substantial conclusion of RCEP by year-end at the AEM, according to him.


On MSME development, Sec. Lopez said that the thrust continues for instituting an enabling environment that allows the sector to develop and internationalize through e-commerce, as well as policies that ease the cost of doing business and provide skills and business training and facilitate the link with the global value chain. 


The country will also prod ASEAN to embrace the evolving digital technology as leverage to enhance trade and investment, to provide an e-based business platform and to promote good governance and green technology.


"We hope to gather, harmonize and mobilize public-private efforts towards taking full advantage of opportunities under the AEC," he concluded.


ASEAN 2017 bears the theme, "Partnering for Change, Engaging the World", which is in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's objective to enhance cooperation with global partners, ensuring that ASEAN citizens, including the Filipinos, can live in peace, stability, security and growth, despite cultural diversities.


Following the AEM Retreat and Related Meetings is the ASEAN Summit in April to be chaired by President Duterte. The bigger meeting 49th AEM, meanwhile, is scheduled in September 2017.