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RPDEV Holds 3rd RP-EU Forum

RPDEV, in cooperation with the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), the Delegation of the European Union (EU) and the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (ECCP), held the third event under its continuing program series to explore ways and means to further develop and enhance trade relations between the Philippines and the European Union.

This one-day conference focused on "RP - EU Business Opportunities and Challenges," was held on June 15, 2006 at the Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel (formerly New World Hotel), Pasay Road, Makati City.

The first forum in January 30, 2003 centered on "EU-RP Partnership: Focusing on New Frontiers" was held to look towards future relations between the EU and the Philippines and broaden economic links with certain niche sectors. In this forum, RPDEV Chair FVR encouraged the Philippine business sector to actively explore trade initiatives beyond the traditional sectors. To the member countries of the EU, the former President touted the Philippines' highly qualified manpower pool, lower cost of skilled labor, proficiency in the English language, democratic culture and stable business environment along with its strategic location as a central gateway to Southeast Asia through AFTA and to the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA).

The follow-up conference held in November 30, 2003 focused on "ASEAN and the European Union: Developing Trade Prospects." It was aimed at deepening the understanding of recent trends in ASEAN and EU in the areas of trade and investment and to foster/promote dialogue and exchange of ideas on the current issues and developments in inter-regional trade. During his keynote address, Chairman Ramos reminded the attendees how Filipinos are very competitive in the fields of Agriculture, Services, and ICT particularly the semiconductor industry. He also mentioned that informal meetings and fora like this enables both parties to continue to work and support the goals of open and liberalized trade partnership between EU and ASEAN. FVR also said that "It is worth noting that the effort towards economic integration is continuously being pursued to ensure that a stronger sense of regionalism in both ASEAN and the EU would enhance the multilateral system -- instead of disabling it and hindering the freer trade and investments." He concluded his speech by saying that "in our competitive world, the objective of negotiations and meetings is for a freer, fairer and better world for our peoples." He went on to say, "The overarching vision that should guide the deeper synchronization and integration of policies/programs is social justice and equity of opportunity which would provide every nation and every individual a 'level playing field' through which to attain a better quality of life."

This third conference hoped to build on the results of the first two conferences on RP-ASEAN-EU trade and take into consideration new developments in the rapidly expanding trade markets of today's globalized economy.

In his speech, RPDEV Chair urged European businessmen to remain in business in the Philippines, and to further expand in the future. He stressed that "economic prospects for our two continents are even brighter." Asia, he emphasized, is assuming a new importance in world affairs and that many of the Asian states are not only the fastest-growing economies but also the rising powers of our time. Along with emerging economies like the Philippines, Asia is radically changing the relative prices of labor, capital, goods and assets throughout the world economy, he said. He also enumerated the attractive areas for investment by European companies -- particularly in information technology, the energy sector, mobile communications, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and so forth. He also drew attention to the now open mining industry and encouraged Europe to exploit the reality that we are ranked fifth in mineral wealth among all countries.

FVR also shared the fact that the Philippines has in recent times become a capital for business-processes outsourcing. Largely due to our wide literacy in English, we have a significant comparative advantage in our Southeast Asian neighborhood in customer-contact centers, tourism, medical transcription, backroom operations in financial and accounting services, and software development. Right now, American and Japanese firms dominate Philippine outsourcing. European corporations, he said, will do well to follow suit -- not only to leverage on our lower costs but to attain maximum efficiency.

FVR likewise, highlighted that the EU member-states have been our largest source of foreign direct investments (FDI). Making the Philippines their base of operations would mean access to a Philippine market of more than 85 million Filipinos and some 550 million people In Southeast Asia through the ASEAN Free-Trae Area (AFTA) mechanism and the ASEAN-10 plus China market of some 1.8 million people.

Ramos assured the prospective investors that their businesses in the Philippines would yield positive results considering the government's resolve to provide a good business climate. "For Europe is where humankind's future is being shaped -- where we may expect reason and humanity to develop more rapidly than anywhere else," Ramos said. He noted that a new world order was being born in Europe, with states giving up portions of their national sovereignty in favor of a higher "civilization synergy." European stability, he said, no longer rested on the balance of power but on the rejection of force and on "self-enforced rules of behavior." "Gradually, painfully, the whole of the global community is moving away from the perpetuation of rule by sheer power toward communities of consent," Ramos surmised. "This is likely to be a slow evolutionary process. It will suffer unavoidably the occasional setback but I have no doubt that it will be in Europe that we will first see the flowering of a full-blown community of consent, of the type that men and women of goodwill have hungered for since the beginning of mankind on our planet, he said.

As in the previous fora, at least 150 participants attended from the diplomatic community, the academe, the government and the business sector, to join and take part in the presentations and discussions.

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