EUROPEANS want to see more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from the Visayas exporting their products to Europe in a bid to boost trade.
In a meeting with Visayas-based business owners yesterday, EU delegation head for economics and trade Walter Van Hattum said some of the in-demand products in the EU that Visayas companies may explore are food processing, including pineapple products, cacao, fish fillet and sardines; fish and crustaceans; furniture, which includes lamps and lighting fittings; footwear; and bicycles.
These goods bear zero tariff with the Generalized Scheme of Prefences Plus (GSP+) privileges granted to the Philippines. The EU is considered as one of the largest exporting partners and the fourth biggest importing partner of the Philippines, said Van Hattum.
In 2016, bilateral trade in goods reached euro 12.8 billion. Meawhile, during the first half of 2017, exports to the EU posted strong growth at about 36 percent due to greater utilization of GSP+ trade privileges, where over 6,000 product lines have zero tariff duty.
However, Van Hattum said the EU’s trade with the Philippines remains low when compared to that of countries like Malaysia, Jordan, and Egypt that share more or less the same economic growth trajectory with the Philippines.
“There’s so much that can be done for the Philippines,” the EU official said. A free trade agreement (FTA) between the Phillippines and EU is expected to boost trade in these economies. To date, the Philippine Government and EU is negotiating the terms of the FTA.
Cebu, they said, can benchmark on its creativity with the creation of innovative products and services for export.
European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) executive director Florian Gottein said joining the foreign chamber could help SMEs enter the EU since it regularly holds business matching activities for Philippine and European companies.
However, the foreign delegates worry the Philippines’ negative image among Europeans, may take a toll on trade and investments.
“The perception of Europe is quite negative with the (conflict in) Mawari and extrajudicial killings. But the more important thing is to address this in a correct way and be objective that the business opportunities are conducive here,” said ECCP president Guenter Taus.