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Canadian Trade Mission to the Philippines-May 2015

Last month I was fortunate to be part of a Government of Canada Trade mission to the Philippines with the Honorable Federal Minister of Trade Ed Fast, Federal Senator Tobias Enverga JrAmbassador Neil Reeder and many other business delegates from the Canadian business sector.

The trade mission was part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to help Canadian businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, better position themselves to capitalize fully on the opportunities that exist in foreign markets to develop their full export potential. It facilitated access to key local economic and political decision-makers for Canadian firms and provided a greater public profile to business participants, helping us build or enhance our network with the local business community and the region. http://www.international.gc.ca/media/comm/news-communiques/2015/03/19b.aspx?lang=eng

The Philippines is a priority market under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), the government’s blueprint for creating jobs and economic growth through trade, with broad interests in key sectors such as infrastructure, sustainable technologies, defence and security, information communications technology, and agriculture. The Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, with more than 6% expected growth in the coming years.  In 2014, Canada-Philippines bilateral merchandise trade reached C$1.8 billion, up 2.5 percent over 2013. Canadian merchandise exports to the Philippines were C$569.5 million. Major Canadian exports include: mineral ores, wood and meat, while key imports are electrical machinery and equipment, machinery, and rubber. In 2014, Canadian merchandise imports from the Philippines were about C$1.24 billion.

Trade between Canada and the Philippines continues to grow steadily. The present government has demonstrated its commitment to fostering a business-friendly environment by focusing on fighting corruption and introducing reforms such as lowering the corporate tax rate and reducing the time and cost to trade by improving its electronic customs systems by adding such functions such as electronic payments and online submission of declarations. Infrastructure deficits are being addressed as evidenced by a number of airports, expressway, mass transit and light rail projects being planned. Ample opportunities therefore exist and an effective strategy to realize market potential is by carefully identifying and collaborating with strong local partners.

I was there to officially sign off on a contract I have been working on with the second largest Telecom provider in the Philippines, Globe Telecom and Kudos Inc. The support of the federal government of Canada during this process was very much appreciated as it provided a high level of credibility and exposure to our company in a country we had only dealt with on a virtual level.

We attended many valuable sessions arranged by the Trade Commissioners office involving presentations from local government agencies, trade associations and business leaders to enable us to gain a solid foundation in understanding how best to approach business in an evolving business climate. Sessions of note were those from Economic Development Canada explaining how they in many cases can reduce the financial risk for vendors and local companies by backing deals once vendors are fully vetted. Also, I found the panel discussion extremely useful as local leaders of industry and trade associations answered questions around trade restrictions, potential pitfalls and paths of least resistance to building successful partnerships in the Philippines. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines arranged a meet and greet function that involved many networking opportunities with SMB and commercial sized business representatives in attendance.

I left Manila with a very different view of the Philippines than when I arrived. I had done business in China for many years but was very impressed with the differences I had experienced on this trip. The upside for doing business in this country are many, albeit challenges are front and center to be aware of. Kudos is positioned very well to be successful as our key demographics are millennials who are mobile and social savvy, so Makati being the “Selfie capital” of the world speaks volumes to me. Further to this, the average age is 23 throughout the country, and English is spoken everywhere.

Overall I am very pleased with the Canadian Government and its support of Canadian business in the ASEAN region. I have made some strong connections locally and abroad that can be fortified over time as I work to open this strong market opportunity for Kudos. Globe Telecom is a valued customer and has proven its dedication to innovative approaches to building a culture of recognition and appreciation.

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