South American biz group sees PH as gateway to Asean


South American business group Mercosur-Asean Chamber of Commerce (MACC) eyes the Philippines as gateway to Asean region.
Mercosur [in Spanish, Mercado Comun del Sur, or Market Commune of the South]is a sub-regional bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s largest business organization, and MACC signed a memorandum of agreement at the PCCI head office in Taguig during a business forum on late Monday. Under the agreement, the two chambers agreed to take all opportunities to promote, strengthen and expand trade, economic, scientific, technological cooperation between the Mercosur region and the PCCI.

“We are seeing in South America that the best door to go to the Asean is the Philippines because you are similar to us in a lot of ways. You have stories that made us similar. And that makes the Philippines very interesting for companies. We say always you have to enter first the Philippines and from the Philippines you can go to other countries. But Philippines, make your platform the Philippines, that is our advice always,” MACC President Rodolfo Caffaro Kramer told reporters.

According to MACC President Kramer, there are large companies in Argentina keen to invest in the country.

“We are now working with four but that is only from Argentina. We are working with Brazil and five companies from Uruguay,” he said.

“At the end it’s one country with another country but we want to have this regional vision. And of course we want to learn a lot from you because Asean, for us, is an extraordinary example. Diversity in the Asean is very big; you are working in this integration and we have to learn a lot from you because we have a problem with integration today because we don’t know how to cooperate better together. The future is to work together and the future is to reach out. It’s not bilateral, it’s regional,” Kramer said.

Connectivity a challenge
MACC President Kramer sees the challenge ahead to spur development between two regions is connectivity.

“We have to work in terms of connectivity because today when you fly to Mercosur, you need a lot of time, a lot of hours with the plane. I came here with Emirates. Emirates from Buenos Aires to Rio first, two and a half hours; Rio de Janeiro to Dubai, 14 hours; and from Dubai to Singapore seven more. It’s a long flight. We have to work together. We are talking with Emirates, we are talking with other airlines because we need to improve the connectivity,” he said.

“We are scaling for direct flights, yes. We need direct flights. We are thinking we need direct flights, I don’t know to Manila but maybe we can have a direct flight from Brazil to Singapore for example. It will come if we promote more trade, that’s the reason we are here. And we are convinced that this is the region of the future. It’s more this region than Europe,” he added.

PCCI President Ambassador Alfredo M. Yao said that “While the Philippines has been fortifying its economic gains in the confines of the Asean, South Americans countries have been gaining grounds with the formation of the Mercosur, a strategic mechanism to integrate your markets and improve your foothold in Asia and other international markets.”

“In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of delegations from Latin American countries that we have been hosting.

This is because of the confluence of a number of developments that is putting Asean and the Philippines at the crossroads for trade and ideas,” he said.

“The Asean region is regarded as one of, if not the fastest growing regional economic blocs in the world with a young population of more than half a billion, a combined GDP of almost US$ 1.1 trillion and total trade of about US$ 1.4 trillion. The region’s attractiveness as investment destination and export market has exponentially risen, driven by more open and liberal trade and investment policies and rising disposable income,” he added.


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