ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Philippine envoy eyes increased bilateral trade
BUSINESSES from Brunei and the Philippines need to understand each other's markets better in order for bilateral trade to continuously increase in the upcoming years, said the Philippines Ambassador to Brunei.
Meynardo LB Montealegre (pictured) told The Brunei Times recently that the trade volume between the two ASEAN countries stood at US$85 million in 2014, a figure which he expects to be surpassed this year.
“Last year's trade numbers were about a US$10 million increase from the year prior – a very good trend that we hope and expect to improve,” said Montealegre, who attributed the majority of the bilateral trade to Philippine agricultural imports to Brunei.
He said private sectors from both countries are still trying to suss out what the niches are in each countries’ respective markets that are wanted by the other party.
Market knowledge is key, Montealegre said, while trade barriers are less of an issue, as both countries already share the regional platforms of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines east ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), ASEAN, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“There is not so much a barrier (in bilateral trade) but a lack of knowledge and exposure that is needed for trade to expand tot he next level. We are in the process of identifying what is the common ground in what each country seeks in engagement and investment,” he added.
Ultimately, this information will allow businesses to identify what will sell best in both markets, said the envoy, citing the Halal market as an obvious choice with “untapped potential” for both countries to import and export.
Montealegre said that with Muslims making up over 10 per cent of the Philippines’ total population, the Halal market is one area the Philippine government is trying to steer businesses towards to, especially in the BIMP-EAGA region.
“For the Philippines, tapping into the Halal industry isn't solely about raw agricultural produce for export. It is also about creating a Halal industry that can draw more Muslim tourists to the country.”
He added that the Halal industry has a spectrum of opportunities for investment; Brunei's rigorous Halal standard can be studied by businesses from the Philippines that are looking into starting up in the industry, while Brunei investors can access or outsource items from the Philippines and leverage on their competitive prices.
“There has yet to be a definite area (in the halal industry), but both governments are working on facilitating. At the end of the day, the industry has to be private sector driven.”
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