The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s largest business organization, and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have agreed to promote increased bilateral trade and investments between the two countries beyond oil products and labor recruitment.
Ambassador Alfredo M. Yao, PCCI president, said on Saturday that this was the result of a recent meeting of PCCI officials with Khalid S. Halawani Alsaid, commercial attaché of Saudi Arabia based in Kuala Lumpur, and Ayman A. Bedaiwi, first secretary of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in the Philippines.
Yao said that trade delegation exchanges that are planned for the year would involve companies that could focus on infrastructures, manufacturing, tourism, information technology, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed foods, handicraft, information technology, and tourism.
Alsaid said that his assignment from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry was to stimulate more non-oil business between Saudi Arabia and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member-countries.
One of the first steps agreed on with Alsaid was to create awareness by the counterpart private sectors of the specific projects, commodities and services the other could offer.
Yao said that investments or joint ventures by Saudi companies in manufacturing projects in the Philippines for the Asean markets were opportunities because products made in Asean could enter the Asean markets tariff-free.
As in Saudi Arabia, there are also economic zones in the Philippines that offer incentives for foreign locators, Yao said.
Alsaid said Saudi businessmen have a low level of awareness of the trade opportunities with Filipino companies and cited the need to intensify Philippine trade promotion activities in Saudi Arabia, noting that previous trade delegations from Saudi Arabia were composed mostly of recruitment companies.
In this connection, he invited the PCCI to also stage market events and trade exhibitions for Philippine products in Saudi Arabia, particularly products for the estimated one million Filipinos living in Saudi Arabia.
Export winners like handicrafts and furniture that are differentiated by creativity have huge potential in the Saudi markets, he said.
Miguel Varela, chairman of PCCI, said that the core group of the Philippine-Saudi Arabia Business Council would be convened to discuss the Saudi proposals.
Benedicto Yujuico, board director of the PCCI international committee and past president of the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI), suggested that certified – halal food could be processed in the Philippines for the Saudi markets.
Alsaid said that he would provide the chamber with a list of Saudi importers of halal food.
Marilou Romero, co-chair of the Philippine-Saudi Business Council, said that planning for the delegation to Saudi Arabia will await inputs from the Saudi-Philippines Business Council.
Other PCCI officials in the meeting were Ramon Escueta, Apolinar Aure, and Danilo Madlansacay.