PH keen to lure investment at Asia-Europe summit

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III hopes to attract more European investment for the Philippines when he attends next week's Asia-Europe summit in Laos, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday, October 29.

"Russia, Finland, and Spain are new investment niches that the Philippines is set to explore" at the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) to be held in Laotian capital Vientiane on November 5-6, DFA Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Elizabeth Buensuceso noted in a statement.

Aquino wants to reaffirm the importance of Europe as a major investor in the Philippines even in the aftermath of the region's current economic decline, Buensuceso added.

Europe is the Philippines' third largest trade partner after North America and Asia.

Bilateral trade reached $13 billion in 2011, and in the same period the EU alone invested P33.3 billion in the country, primarily from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Switzerland, a non-EU member country but that starting this year will join ASEM, invested another P2 billion in 2011, according to the DFA.

Economic, political partner

Aquino, who will be attending the biannual meeting for the first time since he assumed office in 2010, is set to the reaffirm the importance of Europe as "an economic and political partner" of the Philippines.

"Political cooperation between Europe and the Philippines is strong," Buensuceso said.

The EU is a member of the International Monitoring Team of the Mindanao Peace Process, while Norway has been facilitating talks between the government and the National Democratic Front to end decades of conflict with the New People's Army.

In the first case, the President "will seize the opportunity provided by ASEM to engage relevant European partners in order to firm up support for the development of the Bangsamoro" after the recent signing of the Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Aquino is also expected to "highlight the country’s accomplishments in good governance and inclusive growth, while calling for a reinforced Asia-Europe economic partnership to further advance Asia’s economic emergence and Europe’s long-term economic recovery," according to Buensuceso.

The President has scheduled bilateral meetings with the leaders of the European Council, the European Commission, Italy, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.

Finally, Aquino will convey to the European leaders his concern about migrant workers rights.

At the end of 2011 there were almost 747,000 Filipinos living and working in Europe, and round 25% of Filipino seafarers abroad are employed by European-flagged vessels.

Forging ties between Asia and Europe

The ASEM is a biannual meeting that stems from a dialogue process initiated in 1996 with the main goal of forging a "comprehensive partnership" between Asia and Europe.

It is currently composed of 48 partners: all 10 ASEAN countries, 9 other Asian countries, the 27 member states of the European Union, the European Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat.

Norway, Switzerland, and Bangladesh will also be admitted into the group this year.

The DFA stressed that the ASEM "is the only forum where Europe and Asia engage one another at the highest levels of government to discuss international issues of common concern and formulate mutually beneficial cooperation on a region-to-region basis."

Under the 2012 theme “Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity,” leaders are expected to exchange views on the Eurozone crisis, trade and investments, energy and food security, disaster management, counter-terrorism and migration, among other issues. -