By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
France is looking at investing in various big-ticket industries in the Philippines including cable cars, ship-building and aerospace as companies from that European country rekindled their interest in the Philippines.
The French companies made this interest explicit in the summary of discussion at the Joint Economic Cooperation signed between Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez and French Sec. of State Jean Baptiste Lemoyne, head of his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Europe.
This summary of discussion was the outcome of the Joint Economic Cooperation (JEC) between France and the Philippines, the eighth meeting so far since it was set up but the first after four years of hiatus.
“Because of the JEC meeting, French interests in the Philippines have been revived and this is the first time their delegates heard of the opportunities per sector,” Lopez told reporters.
At the signing, Lemoyne was accompanied by high-level members of French ministries, and a business delegation from the Mouvement des enterprises de France (MEDEF) International let by its chairman, industrialist François Corbin.
“France and the Philippines have a lot to do, not only in terms of trade because we are two main engines in our respective areas – the ASEAN and the European Union. As the engines of these two areas, it is crucial that we also have strong bilateral links at the political level,” Lemoyne said
“There is still room for improving our cooperation in many sectors,” Lemoyne added.
The French companies had the opportunity to expound on their expertise and their know-how at the JEC meeting.
“We are not coming to the Philippines just to help, to design, or to build but also to operate, to stay because we do not want just a one-shot cooperation but a strategic relation between our companies and our countries,” the French official added.
“We will also be very pleased to be involved in the Build Build Build program of course, and in your fight against poverty by developing human capital, as well as infrastructure,” he said.
Lopez said Lemoyne gave France’s assurance of its support to the planned free trade agreement of the Philippines with the European Union (EU).
Lopez said specific sectors like aerospace parts, automotive and electronics are being explored to bank on the competency of the Philippines in manufacturing. He said France’s Naval Group is also looking for opportunities in ship-building in the Philippines.
Trade Undersec. Ceferino Rodolfo said the Naval Group earlier expressed interest in acquiring the beleaguered Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines (HHIC-Phil) Inc. shipyard in Subic when French officials visited in March.
Rodolfo said officials in the JEC meeting’s delegation indicated they were still conducting technical studies. Laurent Estrade, chief du Service Economique of the Embassy of France in the Philippines, said his office does not have any information on the level of consideration of the French company’s in Hanjin.
Lopez said as a group, Naval Group could enter the Philippines on its own and not necessarily through Hanjin. The Trade Chief said also discussed at the JEC meeting was the possibility of launching direct flights between Manila and Paris, an initiative of France.
He said the French side however raised some concerns about doing business in the Philippines, such as equity restrictions under the Foreign Investment Negative List in public service and retail.
Lemoyne also had bilateral meetings with Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. and with Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez, as well as Socio-economic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia and Acting Information and Communication Technology Sec. Eliseo Rio.
In 2018, total trade between the Philippines and France grew to $2.64 billion, up by 52.43 percent from its 2017 level at $1.73 billion. French investments in the Philippines in 2018 were up to 2,479 percent to PHP2.561 billion, PHP99.3 million in 2017.