FOR many years, France has been selling more than it actually buys from the Philippines, creating an “imbalance of trade” that saw resource-rich Manila at the lighter side of the scale.
And while the recent positive achievements of the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd proved attractive to foreign tourists and businesses, French Ambassador to the Philippines Gilles Garachon believes that the country “can do much better” because its “potential is huge.”
Garachon said that the government’s efforts to fight corruption, the ongoing peace talks with Muslim rebels, recent investment grade ratings and liberal reforms such as the reproductive health law attract Europeans, especially the French people, to explore the country.
He emphasized though that the country would be more attractive to Europeans if trade, tourism, infrastructures and services are given a boost.
‘Buy more, sell more’
The envoy said France’s total exports to the Philippines reached 1 billion euros, mostly from the sale of 64 airbuses that the Philippine Airlines acquired from a foreign consortium.
On the other hand, France imported only 500 million euros worth goods from the Philippines.
“We can do much better [in trade]. Because of the imbalance, we have to buy more from the Philippines. Tourism and trade is a good way [to boost ties],” Garachon said.
He said Philippines should “sell more,” especially fruits and vegetables, as the “French people love fruits.” Garachon said Manila has “the best fruits in Asia.”
Other local products that the French are willing to buy include artifacts by local craftsmen using native materials such as abaca, rattan and many others, as well as computer products like microchips and other IT-related materials.
Garachon added that services and infrastructures would also attract businessmen and investors.
“We have to increase the exchange in this field. The prospects are good and the potential is huge for outsourcing and other services here,” he said.
Last year, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited the Philippines—the first visit of a French prime minister for the last 65 years—and discussed trade, economic and cultural cooperation with President Aquino.
The French leader said that the partnership aims to have a “healthy trade with the Philippines” as well as “building the trust of investors” in the country.
Currently, the biggest French companies investing in the Philippines include cement-maker Lafarge, oil giant Total, cosmetics firm L’ Oreal, and insurance company AXA.
“Now, there is a momentum in the relations between France and Philippines,” Garachon said, referring to the gradual yet strong cooperation between the two countries.