UK, PHL to strengthen bilateral relations; MSME, rural development; social enterprise as prospects

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez and British Prime Minister's Trade Envoy to the Philippines Richard Graham exchanged views on charting the future direction of bilateral trade and investment relations between the Philippines and the United Kingdom (UK) in a joint lunch meeting recently.

DTI Secretary Lopez called for increased UK engagement in key areas of cooperation, specifically in capacitating and mainstreaming micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) into the value chain, in fostering an enabling environment for countryside development, and in establishing social enterprises. Lopez spoke before members of the business sector.

On President Rodrigo Duterte's 10-point economic agenda, and how it aligns with the DTI's current priorities, the DTI Secretary said, "The intention of the agenda is clear-cut: to pursue a quality of growth that will result in shared prosperity among our people." He stressed the great potential of those occupying the "bottom of the pyramid" as agents of change.

"When we talk about inclusive business, we mean that big businesses will consider MSMEs as part of the bigger picture. MSMEs in the value chain would prove cost-efficient, especially since big businesses would now look into a pool of direct supply sources that offer unique, innovative and competitive products," Lopez explained.

Lopez added that social enterprises go beyond the drive of earning profit and that the philosophy is a prerequisite in creating a "strong, sustainable, and socially inclusive economy."

According to the Trade Secretary, the Philippine government will help in nurturing idea-based entrepreneurship. "DTI will help Filipino entrepreneurs showcase their products for local, and eventually for export consumption. We will improve displays and access of the public to MSME products," he said.

Lopez encouraged the UK to partner with the country in pursuing "pro-people economic initiatives and programs," and hoped the trade envoy's visit result in further strengthening and expanding PH-UK economic ties.

British Trade Envoy Graham assured the Philippine side that it will do its best to help Filipino businessmen find opportunities to work with British businesses, as well as provide assistance in updating the country's transportation needs and consumer franchising measures.

Over the past six years, trade between the Philippines and the UK has grown at a modest pace, with a yearly average of roughly 7 percent, from USD 680 million in 2010 to USD 898 million in 2015, a "promising course that signals both sides to revisit their goals and bring bilateral trade and investment relations to "a more strategic plane," according to Lopez.

Philippine-British Business Council (PBBC) Chairman Ambassador Jesus Tambunting, in his closing remarks, expressed appreciation to Britain for their support to existing PH-UK commercial linkages. (

Source: Philippine Information Agency