UK’s ASEAN trade envoy sees potential airport management, RE tie-ups

RICHARD GRAHAM, a UK trade envoy to the region, said the industries where he sees potential tie-ups in the Philippines include airport management, pharmaceuticals and renewable energy (RE).

“The great thing about the UK, is it’s effectively the fifth biggest country for GDP in the world is that we have a quite an important presence in pretty much every sector,” Mr. Graham, the Prime Mister’s trade envoy to the association of Southeast Asian Nations, said in a media roundtable on Thursday.

“If you look for example at aviation which is really important to the Philippines because of tourism … I think there are some areas where we can look at British expertise in running very efficient airports like Gatwick Airport, which is also a single runway airport,” he said.

“Pharmaceuticals would be another, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently won an important contract with the Department of Health (DoH) of the Philippines to produce a new vaccine which should protect many people here in the country,” he added.

The vaccine that GSK will supply is a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which the DoH said protects against conditions caused by streptococcus pneumoniae, such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.

Mr. Graham called the renewables market a large partnership opportunity. The UK increased the share of renewables in its energy mix to 43% from 7% in 2010.

“We see a huge opportunity here for the Philippines to benefit from offshore wind the same as we have. Also, both of us can probably do more on solar and you have more sun than we have so the opportunity is probably bigger for the Philippines,” he said.

“We just started producing marine energy from tidal streams. (The Philippines) has very strong tides, so I hope when tidal stream businesses are a bit more scalable there will be opportunities there as well,” he added.

Mr. Graham said the Philippine government itself is aggressively pursuing opportunities in offshore wind energy.

“We’ve had a delegation that came to the UK in February looking very closely at that,” he said.

“We’ve got to get all that structure right to provide an environment for businesses to invest in it. My guess is this won’t happen overnight but I suspect your President is impatient to see progress and we very much hope to help you in the journey,” he added.

He said discussions on offshore wind are still in their early stages.

“I think the Department of Energy of the Philippines is looking at different ways of structuring this new opportunity,” he said.

“So, my guess, I hope over the next two years, is that we’ll see real progress in terms of getting the structure and maybe looking at more detail particularly on the connectivity to the grid and how your grid system will be able accommodate this,” he added.

During the media roundtable, Mr. Graham said that the UK’s new trading scheme, Developing Countries Trading Scheme, will make it more attractive for Philippine companies to export to the UK.

“DCTS, which will go live this summer, is designed to reduce the costs of Philippine exports by a bunch, this might not be precise but by 10%, and we hope that in the countries we are making this available to, it would reduce import tariffs roughly by 20 million pounds on a total of 200 million pounds,” Mr. Graham said. 

Some 150 items will benefit from the tariff change under DCTS, said Mr. Graham.

“Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual will have a session launching this with British Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils, and this will be happening at the end of the first week of June and then shortly after that the full details will be published and everyone will be able to ask lots of detailed questions about how individual companies and sectors in the Philippines will benefit,” he said.

“We’ve had some preliminary talks in fact just now with the Department of Agriculture, to explain to them that this is coming and to start the business of communicating the good news to our friends and partners in the Philippines,” he added.

Mr. Graham said that the DCTS will come into effect as a unilateral offering that requires no reciprocity from the Philippines.

“If you join the DCTS you’ll be automatically renewed unless there is a particular problem, so that’s good news,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Graham said that the Philippines should also be aware of longer-term opportunities presented by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“We think that this offers lots of exciting opportunities for other Pacific countries. Obviously, Malaysia is a party to this and we very much hope that the Philippines will consider whether this is an attractive option going forward,” he said.

“Because if it did come to pass then we would effectively have the ingredients of a bilateral free trade agreement through the multilateral TPP. I see that as a longer-term opportunity and obviously the Philippines has to decide whether to pursue it but meanwhile the DCTS is a good step forward,” he added.

Mr. Graham visited the Philippines between April 24 and April 27. — Justine Irish D. Tabile