Philip­pines high on UK’s radar

The Philippine Star - - NEWS OPINION - By RICHARD COLLEY

It’s been a month since I ar­rived in the Philip­pines to take up my post as the Di­rec­tor for Trade and In­vest­ment at the British em­bassy. I had heard about the op­por­tu­ni­ties in the coun­try, its re­la­tion­ship with the UK but it is re­ally dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it first-hand. In this short pe­riod, I have met with of­fi­cials from gov­ern­ment and busi­ness, sup­ported British brands in their events and even par­tic­i­pated in a foot­ball clinic we part­nered with dur­ing the UK-PH Friend­ship Day.

With the strong eco­nomic growth of the coun­try, cur­rently at six per­cent and an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 105 mil­lion, it is no won­der why the Philip­pines fig­ures high on the UK’s radar for mar­ket reach. In my short time here, I have wit­nessed the eco­nomic re­nais­sance the Philip­pines is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing: ro­bust growth driven by a strong (and young) mid­dle class con­sumer base, and de­vel­op­ment prompted by an ag­gres­sive in­fra­struc­ture ex­pan­sion by its Gov­ern­ment. I am pleased to see the UK has been suc­cess­ful in cap­i­tal­is­ing on the Philip­pines’ strong ap­petite for goods and ser­vices, with our im­pres­sive bi­lat­er­als.

Dur­ing this time, I have also had the priv­i­lege of over­see­ing the visit of Her Majesty’s Trade Com­mis­sioner (HMTC) for Asia-Pa­cific, Natalie Black. She is part of a group of nine se­nior lead­ers for the UK’s De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional Trade (DIT), with the vi­sion of lead­ing and driv­ing the British com­mer­cial and trad­ing re­la­tion­ships with our global part­ners. HMTCs have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of set­ting geo­graph­i­cal mar­ket pri­or­i­ties and lead­ing on ar­eas of trade pol­icy, work­ing closely with a wide range of stake­hold­ers world­wide. Th­ese ap­point­ments high­light the UK’s com­mit­ment to re­in­forc­ing in­ter­na­tional trade re­la­tion­ships, as we evolve away from the Eu­ro­pean Union.

Natalie cur­rently over­sees 22 posts across 15 coun­tries in the re­gion (ASEAN, Aus­tralia, Ja­pan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Tai­wan), a group of mar­kets of­fer­ing var­i­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges in their re­la­tion­ship with the UK. Since her ap­point­ment, she has made her way through Taipei, Seoul, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and now, Manila.

Her visit started on a high note, with a lively dis­cus­sion with the Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion of the Philip­pines. High on our agenda was the fi­nan­cial in­dus­try’s need for an in­sti­tu­tion­alised cy­ber­se­cu­rity roadmap. It was in­ter­est­ing how the topic res­onated well with Natalie due to her work in de­liv­er­ing the UK’s Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Strat­egy. The UK de­liv­ers par­tic­u­larly well in cy­ber se­cu­rity so­lu­tions and we are pleased to have carved out this op­por­tu­nity to part­ner with the Philip­pine fi­nan­cial in­dus­try.

We also paid a cour­tesy visit to the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank head­quar­ters to learn more about its role in South­east Asia’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals, and how the UK can align with the Bank’s broader pros­per­ity agenda. The re­gion is see­ing a de­mand of ex­per­tise in the ar­eas of dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion, cli­mate re­silient in­fra­struc­ture and tech­nolo­gies, and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. The UK availed of this op­por­tu­nity to re­new its will­ing­ness to part­ner with the Bank in the ad­vance­ment of its goals in the Philip­pines and the wider Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

On the heels of the re­cent UK eco­nomic road­show, we also called on Trade and In­dus­try Sec­re­tary Ra­mon Lopez as part of our on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions un­der the UK-Philip­pines Joint State­ment of In­tent. I found most value in en­gag­ing gov­ern­ment at the high­est pos­si­ble level, to fur­ther drive home the point of our en­hanced eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, and to re­solve var­i­ous is­sues of mar­ket ac­cess and ease of do­ing busi­ness.

I feel that I have only been able to scratch the sur­face of op­por­tu­ni­ties on what the Philip­pines has to of­fer dur­ing this whirl­wind of a month. As I grad­u­ally ease into my new role and with the help of the em­bassy and DIT teams, I am con­fi­dent I will be able to con­tinue build­ing on the strong foun­da­tions al­ready in place, and fos­ter new ones. (Richard Colley, Di­rec­tor for Trade and In­vest­ment British Em­bassy Manila Twit­ter @RCol­ley_UK)

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