“The Philippine economy is a 'bright spot' in the region,” Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary for Industry Development and Board of Investments Managing Head Adrian Cristobal Jr. said during the Philippine-Japan Business Investment Forum held in Tokyo last week. Cristobal urged Japanese businessmen to “seize opportunities in the Philippines to create wealth, generate jobs, and improve the lives of our peoples.” The forum was organized by Nikkei Business Publications, Japan’s largest publisher on business, management, and technology.

“Now is the right time for our Japanese friends and partners to come and do business in the country, and for those all ready operating there, expand your business,” said Cristobal as he cited improved governance, political reforms, strong macroeconomic fundamentals, improved competitiveness ranking, and industrial peace, among others. He also briefed Japanese companies about the benefits advantages the Philippines enjoys from trade preferences from the world’s largest importing countries, the EU and the US, under its respective Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

The Philippines became a beneficiary to EU’s GSP-plus late last year which granted the Philippines duty-free access to two-thirds of EU’s tariff lines. Furthermore, in June 2015, the US reauthorized its GSP grant to the Philippines which already expired in mid-2013, providing for Philippine duty-free access to 3,500 US tariff lines.

Japanese firms were amongst the first to take advantage of these preferences. This year, Shimano, a large Japanese bicycle manufacturer invested JPY 3.5 billion, to access the EU market through the Philippines. “By setting up manufacturing facilities in the Philippines, Japanese companies may avail of the duty-free market access to the EU and the US, including products which are key export interests of Japan,” Cristobal added.

Some products being exported by Japan covered by EU GSP+ and US GSP with significant tariff differentials if produced in the Philippines are bicycles, ball bearings, motorcycles, gear boxes, pneumatic tyres.

“We are in fact the only country in ASEAN to enjoy this preferential treatment,” Cristobal said. “In addition to these product categories, exporters in footwear and textile, preserved fruits, pineapple juice, jams and jelly who are targeting the European market may find a wealth of opportunity in the Philippines’ GSP Plus status,” he added.

While in Japan, Cristobal also met with the car and car parts manufacturers to brief them on the country’s Manufacturing Resurgence Program (MRP) and the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program. The Philippine government aims to enhance the competitiveness of its automotive industry not only to keep pace with its growing market but also to seize a bigger share of the regional automotive manufacturing industry in the near future.

The CARS Program intends to increase the industry’s level of production (currently at 80,000-90,000 units per year) to a competitive scale at 200,000 per year. The CARS Program covers motor vehicle production, auto parts manufacturing, and shared service and testing facilities.

According to the DTI, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will be leading a Japanese delegation of companies to look into prospects in the health industry including medical devise manufacturing, training, IT services outsourcing, research and consultancy. (END)