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PH-Switzerland bilateral trade rise 8%

Despite the pandemic, bilateral trade between the Philippines and Switzerland rose to $764 million in 2020 and former’s exports to the European country rose 8 percent, according to the Board of Investments.

Likewise, over the last five years, approved investments from Switzerland reached P1 billion as Swiss entities like Nestle, Franke Food Service, and CHAMP Cargosystems, among many others.

BOI Managing Head Ceferino S. Rodolfo said during the virtual business forum entitled “Philippines and Switzerland: Investing Together for a Better Future” that the Philippines reaffirmed its commitment to expand two-way trade and investment ties with Switzerland.

BOI Managing Head Ceferino S. Rodolfo 

Rodolfo, who is also trade and industry undersecretary, said the Philippines would like to deepen cooperation in cleantech and renewable energy, infrastructure, life sciences and digital healthcare sectors ahead of the fourth Joint Economic Commission (JEC) to be held this week and the 65th anniversary of PH-CH diplomatic relations next year.

“We enjoin Swiss businesses…to look closer in the Philippines and assess the merits of investing into the country given the set of incentives that we offer, matched with unparalleled abundance and cost efficiency of labor and of course, access to strategic markets,” Rodolfo said.

For his part, Alain Gaschen, Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines, said “Next year, we will celebrate the 65th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship and we build upon a good trade and investment relationship. We have been doing this relationship with you [since 1956], but if I look at our trade and investment bonds, they date back way more than a century [before] we started the diplomatic relationship.”

Dr. Urs Lustenberger, President of the Swiss-Asian Chamber of Commerce, cited the Philippines as great place to do business.

“The Philippines is a great place, has fantastic people – a hundred million of them – which provides not only a market for themselves [but also] a good base for expansion into Asia,” he said.

“I would really like to take this forum to convince anyone out there that investing in the Philippines is not only something that will help your business, it will also be something that could help the country.”

Rodolfo further said that the Philippines was able to turnaround trade deficit with the four small but rich European countries a year after it forged a bilateral free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association with Switzerland driving the growth in commerce.

“On the first full year of implementation in 2019, we turned that around so we already had a surplus of $47 million,” said Rodolfo, who is Trade and Industry Undersecretary.

In 2018, the year prior to entry into force of the PH-EFTA, Rodolfo said the Philippines had a trade deficit vis-à-vis the EFTA countries to the tune of about $61 million.

Swiss companies looking to expand their markets can leverage the PH-European Free Trade Association (PH-EFTA) free trade deal that was signed in 2018.

Before the deal came into force, Swiss companies paid $10.5 million in duties on $226.7 million in exports per annum in 2017, according to an analysis by Professor Patrick Ziltener of the University of Zürich.

In a separate study, Ambassador Markus Schlagenhof, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, cited how Philippine exporters to Switzerland saved roughly half a million Swiss francs in 2019 thanks to PH-EFTA, translating to a 24 percent savings rate. Swiss companies exporting to the Philippines saved CHF1.3 million or 20 percent savings rate over the same period. “We all agree these rates are still very low but the agreement is also very young…and the potential is still largely underutilized. I am confident that when economic cooperators learn more about this agreement, we further have to promote it, in a couple years’ time, it certainly will be much higher than it is right now,” Schlagenhof said.

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