European SMEs could drive Philippine FDI growth — ECCP

THE EUROPEAN business chamber in the Philippines said it is receiving expressions of interest from European small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) considering investing in the country amid a broad rethink of their operations after the pandemic forced many such firms to close shop.

“What we are targeting and where we are also getting inquiries on a constant basis is actually more the small and medium-sized enterprises that are also the backbone of the European economy,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) Executive Director Florien Gottien said in a briefing Wednesday.

The family-run businesses are more risk-averse, he said, which lengthens the process, he said.

But he added that many European companies are considering restructuring, outsourcing, and entering other markets.

European companies in the Philippines were not spared the effects of the pandemic.

Lars Wittig, the new ECCP president, said that some firms — including garment manufacturers — have shut down and left the country.

“To be honest, I’ll be very surprised if any of them came back. Why? Because these companies were of a certain size and working in such an industry, where the time was already two minutes to midnight so to speak because they were in a type of manufacturing maybe that was already obsolete for a market like the Philippines,” he said.

But other sectors have remained in the country. European outsourcing, food and beverage, and manufacturing firms are adapting and “fighting for the best possible outcome.”

“Have we seen any other major, significant investors that have pushed the pause button and left to come back later? No, we have not,” Mr. Wittig said.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the Philippines declined to $6.542 billion in 2020 from $8.671 billion in 2019.

But Mr. Wittig is confident about the resilience of European investment in the Philippines.

“European investments last year didn’t drop like the average, which was 24, 25%. It only dropped 12%,” he said. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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