The United Kingdom wants to deepen economic ties with the Philippines whose open market and more sustainable growth have made it a more attractive trade and investment hub in the region.
In fact, British Ambassador to Manila Asif Ahmad said the UK has a “long shopping list” of industries they want to invest in, which are in areas that are “compatible with what the Philippines itself needs.”
Ahmad said British companies are particularly interested in energy, construction, mining, tourism, food production, and infrastructure.
But before the UK can pour resources into these areas, he cited the need for the Philippines to do its fair share of making investments in these vital industries easier.
Ahmad also suggested that the Philippine government devise ways of reversing the brain drain so that it can encourage its migrant workers abroad to come back and invest their knowledge and skills to help boost the country’s economy.
Biggest EU investor
According to the British Embassy in Manila, the UK is one of the biggest European Union investors in the country, with around $1 billion in foreign direct investment stock in the Philippines as of 2013.
Major British investors in the Philippines include Royal Dutch Shell plc, HSBC, Unilever, Standard Chartered, Pru Life, De La Rue, GSK, AstraZeneca, Diageo, G4S, JCB, Intertek and Halcrow, and Dunlop Slazenger.
Shell is one of the top investors in the Philippines as a “major gas producers and refiner/distributor of petroleum products,” the embassy said.
“Together with their partners, Shell developed and currently operates the Malampaya deep water gas-to-power project off the northwest coast of Palawan,” it said.
UK companies are also heavily invested in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the country, as well as in training, retail franchises, and luxury cars.
In the BPO industry, some of the biggest UK companies are HSBC, Shell, Logica, T-Mobile, Dunlop Slazenger, the Financial Times and Northgate Arinso.
In training, UK firms include Balfour Beatly and Cape Plc, which train Filipinos in technical skills to support the operations of these companies around the world.
UK retail franchises in the country include Debenhams, M&S, Speedo, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Warehouse, Clarks Shoes, Burberry, Paul Smith, Ben Sherman, Hackett, Dunhill, Lee Cooper and Mothercare.
In automobiles, UK brands in the Philippines include Jaguar/Range Rover and Mini as well as Bentley and Rolls Royce.
No. 1 gateway
But the United Kingdom is interested not only in investing in the Philippines. It also wants Filipino companies to consider investing in the UK.
“The UK is the number one gateway in Europe, giving easy access to the 28 member states of the European Union, the world’s largest single market,” the embassy said. It said the UK has a “flexible market,” a welcoming business environment, “and a strong rule of law makes it one of the best places in the world to start or grow a business.”
The figures released in 2013 for UK’s annual investment showed that the country continued to strengthen its position as the “leading European destination for foreign direct investment.”
Aside from investments from Europe, North America and Japan, the UK is also attracting investments from growing economies such as China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which the Philippines is a member.
Philippine investments in the UK include banking and telecom companies such as BPI and Smart, as well as the Emperador brand owned by Alliance Global Group.
Meanwhile, trade relations between the Philippines and the UK are “good,” according to the British Embassy, noting that two-way trade in goods and services in 2012 stood at £1.23 billion ($2.1 billion), up 7 percent year-on-year.
Exports of goods and services in 2012 reached £550 million ($940.4 million), up 13 percent year-on-year. For 2013, UK exports of goods stood at £374 million ($639.5 million), an increase of 13 percent from the previous year. Service figures for 2013 are not yet available.
The top UK export industries are electrical machinery, pharmaceuticals, professional services and transport equipment, the embassy said.
The UK also views people-to-people relations between the two countries as important since there are about 250,000 British nationals living in the Philippines while some 300,000 of Filipino descent living in the United Kingdom.
“The plurality of Filipinos working in the UK are nurses and contribute significantly to the efficiency of the National Health Service,” the British Embassy said.
“Our UK Trade and Investment team leads our commercial work and the British Chamber of Commerce provides a platform for existing British businesses in the country,” it added.
Cultural ties are nurtured through the British Council, which leads in promoting educational links, particularly the promotion, teaching and testing of English skills.