Philippines high on UK’s radar
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)