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Business calls for national dialogue to craft a ‘strategic’ foreign policy

The Makati Business Club (MBC), which groups most of the country’s largest conglomerates, yesterday said it welcomed the Duterte administration’s efforts to rebuild relationships with China but stressed the need to conduct a multi-sectoral dialogue as the government recalibrates a new foreign policy even as it warned it cannot just dismiss the invaluable support of the United States.

“We support the drive for an independent foreign policy, particularly during this time when the Philippines has gained international respect, recognition and confidence over the past few years,” according to the MBC statement.

But the MBC also stressed that as the country “transitions through this recalibration in our foreign policy, we call on the government to initiate another multi-sectoral dialogue similar to when it drafted the 10-point socio-economic agenda.”

The MBC has urged government to also invite the views of eminent leaders, foreign policy experts, policy makers, business, the academe, and the youth. It is important for the world to see that the government continues its inclusive engagement and welcomes investments that will generate jobs.

MBC is prepared to participate in this discussion, saying the business group works toward a shared aspiration of a progressive and inclusive Philippines.

“Given China’s stature as a major player in global affairs, and the Philippines’ steady economic rise, both our countries stand to benefit from renewed and much closer ties, particularly in trade and investment,” it said.

MBC cited China’s expertise in infrastructure will be critical to the Philippines’ development as the government seeks to close the massive infrastructure gap that has been suppressing the country’s growth for the past years.

China stands as the Philippines’ 2nd largest trading partner, contributing $10.8 billion to our imports and $6.4 billion to our exports. The Philippines, meanwhile, has invested $75 million in China, as of 2012, while China has invested $570,000, as of 2015.

These figures are expected to further improve as renewed relationships takes on a next level.

But MBC also stressed that as the Philippines strengthens its ties with one of its neighbors, this should also be done in tandem with continuing to nurture our partnership with existing strategic allies and friends.

“In particular, our relationship with the United States, particularly on the economic front, should remain solid and should also be further expanded,” MBC stressed.

MBC cited the United States is the country’s 3rd largest trading partner, accounting for 12.7% of total trade. The Philippines exported $9 billion worth of goods to the US, and imported $7.47 billion, reflecting a trade surplus valued at $1.55 billion. The two major pillars of the Philippine economy, Overseas Filipino remittances and the business process outsourcing industry are closely linked with the United States. Filipinos in the US contribute the highest amount of remittances, valued at $8.4 billion, accounting for 33 percent of total remittances sourced from all over the world. American firms have also been critical in the development of our BPO industry that, as of 2015, contributed $22 billion to the economy and provided 1.2 million jobs.

The United States is also among the Philippine major investors at $732 million in 2015, while Americans rank as our 2nd largest market for tourists, generating R4.4 billion in tourist receipts.

“Moreover, solid people-to-people ties, shared history, and common values bind our two countries together,” said MBC. Both countries have been allied for the past 70 years.

In time of need, the MBC said the United States has delivered $90.9 million worth of financial aid and has offered extensive manpower and technical support to the  rescue and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.

Similarly, the United States makes up 36.1 percent of official development aid grants of the Philippines in contrast to others with much smaller grants portfolio extended.

The United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation, in particular, has extended over $433 million worth of anti-poverty and human development programs in the Philippines since 2006.

“These figures reflect the invaluable commitment and steadfastness of the US in assisting the growth of our people and our communities,” the statement concluded.