By Bernadette D. Nicolas, May 17 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

THE Philippines expects to sign at least 10 business-to-business agreements during President Duterte’s visit to Japan this end-May.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Thursday that these agreements include two memoranda of understanding and eight letters of intent on various areas, such as electronics, manufacturing, data analytics, services, energy, transportation and tourism.

“In other words, companies that are already here that are intending to expand their operation, invest more, expand operations. These are big Japanese companies that we cannot also ignore, they still want to express their support and confidence for the current administration and they want to indicate their intent and invest more,” Lopez said.

However, the trade secretary said the President may not be able to witness the signing of these agreements although he did not elaborate why.

The President is set to be in Tokyo on May 30 and 31 to speak at the 25th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia. This is his third trip to the country’s top source of official development assistance (ODA) since assuming office.

Lopez added they are also arranging a roundtable and a business forum for the President to attend.

“We will have a business forum that will allow the President to meet the Japanese companies, representatives, CEOs, as well as with, of course, the Philippine business delegation that would be joining the President,” he said.

Lopez said he also expects the President to talk about the country’s economic gains, especially its recent credit rating upgrade from S&P from BBB to BBB+, the highest credit rating it received from a major ratings agency to date.

The “S&P credit rating upgrade, the reforms that we are doing and we will continue to do especially with the new Congress, the new Senate,” are reforms, Lopez added, “that will attract more investments and entice more investments. The ease of doing business, the reforms that he’s doing for the economy.”

Moreover, “the security aspect is really important because of stability. Security is important in attracting also investments. His passion to stop all corruption, that’s always his commitment to investors, so I am sure he will also highlight that,” according to Lopez.

He hoped the President’s visit to Japan, the country’s second-top trading partner, will boost trade relations between two countries, noting that they are working on gaining more market access in the Japanese market, especially with country’s banana exports.

“Our exports there are strong, we’re one of the biggest supplier of banana, but we noticed that our tariff rates still have room to go down, so we are working toward the reduction in the tariff rate to gain more access in the Japanese market,” he said.

Aside from being the country’s second-biggest trading partner, Japan is home to the country’s fourth-largest tourism market.