By John Law, US Embassy Chargés d’affaires
Remarks of the US Embassy Chargé d’affaires John Law at the 3rd annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum on Oct. 29, 2020.
IN past years, the Indo-Pacific Business Forum has been an opportunity for high-level business executives to meet with senior US officials and business executives from throughout the Indo-Pacific region. It was held in Bangkok last year; however, this year’s format is mostly virtual with some in-person programs broadcast from Hanoi, Vietnam.
This year’s virtual format represents our continued adjustment to the way we do business due to limited travel capabilities. And while not ideal, it allows a unique opportunity to expand the scope of participation and reach of the forum around the region and beyond.
The 2020 business environment has obviously been very difficult, and companies have had to make large-scale adjustments. But what has not changed is the importance of the Indo-Pacific region to American economic interests, or the commitment of the United States business community to trade and investment within the Philippines and the region.
The United States and the Philippines share a commitment to supporting market-based economic policies; broad-based and inclusive development; and free, fair and reciprocal trade; which guide our outlook in working toward economic recovery and sustainable growth. It is an opportunity to discuss the contribution of the US private sector to the region and ways we can support goals to create business environments that foster vibrant private sector investment, job growth and sustainable financing.
The themes of this year’s forum include the following: energy and infrastructure, the digital economy, health and market connectivity. These are all areas where US firms have been investing and the US government has looked to provide support.
Energy and infrastructure – The Philippines’ strong demographic and growth fundamentals are poised to benefit the infrastructure sector, including clean energy sources. This has recently attracted significant infrastructure investments in the country by US firms, who have acquired stakes in internet infrastructure (Pincus-Warburg), power producers (New Fortress Energy) and signed LNG infrastructure agreements (KKR).
Digital economy – The Covid-19 crisis has crystallized the case for digital technology and accelerated its adoption. The Philippines that emerges from this will operate in different ways from the Philippines that entered this pandemic. This market here is ready to adopt best in class US tech solutions now. At last year’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum, for example, the US Trade and Development Agency signed a letter of intent to provide PLDT with a training grant for 5G deployment.
Health – In light of the current pandemic, the US government has provided more than P1 billion to support medical treatment such as ventilators, PPE and medical equipment to empower health workers, boost testing capacity, bolster local businesses, and strengthen supply chain management. US businesses continue to invest heavily in the country and have helped alleviate the pandemic by delivering humanitarian aid, producing and donating medical supplies and providing housing and financial assistance.
Market connectivity – Global and regional market connectivity is a key ingredient for fostering economic growth. Ensuring that countries have robust financial structures is vital to maintain this connectivity. Our $6.5 million over three years in technical assistance through US Treasury programs has contributed to the development of the country’s capital markets that are growing to support infrastructure finance.