By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will conduct at least 10 trade and investments this year to push the country’s exports to more markets.
DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said they are targeting Japan, EU, South China, and Australia-New Zealand. These are on top of the DTI Secretary’s speaking engagements on invitations to speak before investors and businessmen in global fora and conferences. On average, DTI conducts more than 10 missions a year.
Lopez said the DTI is more empowered this year to also push for more roadshows because of the bigger budget for international trade shows.
“With bigger budget from Congress we can sponsor more SMEs and even major firms with the capacity to supply,” he said.
He noted that DTI can sponsor for space and booths at international trade shows stressing that other countries normally pay for the spaces, which are actually expensive, for the product exhibits of their exporters.
The investment and trade missions are meant to complement its push for the opening of new markets and new frontiers.
For instance, Lopez said that DTI will tap the huge and open African market given the region’s growing consumer spending as part of efforts to open new frontiers in non-traditional markets to give more push for the country’s exports.
Lopez noted that the Philippines has not really given enough attention to Africa. The DTI itself does not have a dedicated commercial attaché for this continent, even in South Africa, which is represented by the UAE post that also oversees the huge Middle East region. Lopez plans to open a new post for Africa next year.
“We have not really pushed our products in South America although some firms have started doing trade there, but we would like to give it more push,” said Lopez, who also announced plans to target first the high consumption markets like of Africa such as Egypt and Kenya.
Lopez was recently in UAE and met with UAE officials where they agreed to start free trade discussions next year in a bid to conclude a trade deal before 2021. The Philippines, whose biggest import bill is accounted for by oil, is looking at favorable oil supply at cheaper rates once the FTA with UAE has been forged. The Philippines can also offer UAE industrial and agricultural products in return.
The DTI does not have figures yet about the size of the market in Africa but initial studies showed potentials for the country’s products such as personal care, food, basic industrial items, processed meats, canned tuna, among others.
For UAE alone, economic relations between the two countries are limited to the existing Joint Economic Cooperation, but which could be the stepping stone for future FTA. UAE is Philippines 16th largest trading partner. Philippine exports to UAE in the January-October period this year reached $321.73 million, reflecting a significant 11.2 percent decline from $362.17 million in the same period last year.
Aside from Africa, Lopez also revealed plans to open new post next year for the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland where the Philippines has an existing bilateral FTA deal. DTI also plans to create additional posts for other countries in Europe where there are only two at present. A new commercial attaché will also be posted in Hong Kong starting January next year.
By opening new markets, Lopez said this will also encourage companies to expand their production to serve new markets.