Following the first meeting of the Philippines-Switzerland Joint Economic Commission (JEC) last July, a Swiss business delegation will visit Manila and Cebu this month to further boost economic relations between the Philippines and Switzerland.

“The forthcoming visit of the delegation led by the Swiss Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) shows the growing interests of Swiss businessmen in the Philippines. It is also timely considering the positive developments in the country in the past few years,” Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ponciano C. Manalo, Jr. said.

The delegation is composed of executives from Swiss firms with strong business interests in business process management, pharmaceuticals, metal recycling, and finance development.

“The Philippines is known for its political stability and robust economic growth, which are key indicators considered by investors. In fact, some companies that invested in our ASEAN neighbors have shown interest to relocate in the country because of its viable business environment,” Manalo said.

Manalo noted that in looking at ASEAN, many foreign investors have a tendency to choose the Philippines because of its strength in business process management, and availability of young and mobile population with strong proficiency in English.

“These investors are also looking at the Philippines as a potential hub in the region with the full integration ASEAN Economic Community next year,” Manalo said.

From 12 to 16 November, the delegation is scheduled to meet with Undersecretary Manalo, and other officials of the Board of Investments (BOI), the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB), the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), as well as officers of the Philippine-Swiss Business Council (PSBC).

On November 13, the delegation will have a trade and investment forum organized by the Board of Investments (BOI) and meet with several Philippine companies in the business matching session arranged by the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB). From November 14 to 15, the delegation will visit Franke Philippines, a Swiss company, as well as Philippine companies, namely Kenneth Cobonpue Asia and Profoods International in Cebu.

“The Swiss companies’ visit aims to showcase opportunities the Philippines can offer them. There are no done deals yet, but the fact that they decided to visit shows their strong and serious interests in the Philippines,” Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland Mr. Leslie J. Baja said. Baja will accompany the delegation in Manila and in Cebu.

There are about 60 Swiss companies operating in the Philippines that employ around 15,000 Filipinos according to the Swiss Embassy data. By nature of activity, 75 percent of these companies belong to the service sector, and 25 percent to the industrial sector.

Last year, total Philippines-Switzerland trade hit close to CHF 500 million. Swiss exports to the Philippines amounted to CHF 361.3 million, up by 15.2 percent from its 2012 value, while Swiss imports from the Philippines was at CHF 134 million, up by 6 percent from the previous year, according to Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

On investments, total capital stock and invested amount by Swiss firms in the Philippines as of 2012 amounted to CHF 3.8 billion, according to the Swiss National Bank.

Manalo noted that bilateral economic agreements between the Philippines and Switzerland are firmly in place. In 1997, there was an agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the Swiss Confederation on the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments. Likewise, in 1998, there was a convention between the Republic of the Philippines and the Swiss Confederation for the avoidance of double taxation with respect to taxes on income.

Manalo added that the Philippines is currently undertaking scoping exercises with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nations, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland on a possible Philippine-EFTA Free Trade Agreement.