Israel Chamber Wants to Double “Israel-PH” Trade

Israel is stepping-up its bilateral business relations with the Philippines after its new Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ICCP) president said the country want to double its trade with the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Itamar Geo, the new ICCP president, told reporters last week that the chamber would work hard to “double” its bilateral trade with the Philippines from the “few tens of millions” of dollars to date.

Geo replaced former ICCP president Eyal S. Ben Ari.

“It’s still not as big as we wanted it to be because we know Vietnam gets a lot more volume. It’s not enough . . . But I can say in my administration, we want to double it which will not be a hard task because it’s still kind of stagnant,” Geo said, who is set to govern ICCP from 2016 to 2017.

The latest data available from the World Trade Organization or the ICCP website is only from 2007, and estimated Philippine exports to Israel at just over $38 million that year, without providing other details of investment between the two countries.

The new ICCP president has come up with a roadmap called 2016-2017: A Roadmap to Success which focuses on awareness and promotion of the Philippines as a good investment and tourism destination, as well as streamlining processes and assistance for Israeli companies wanting to invest and do business in the country.

The roadmap outlines ICCP’s plan for this year and next, which includes the launching of a new website, hosting a number of events and meetings, executing platforms and activities, as well as providing membership benefits.

“Right now there is a growth in local demand which means many more are able to afford services . . . the Philippines is looking for solutions, and Israel wanted to be that solution because we’re known to be the cusp of technology . . . Israel can provide that solution; it’s the right time,” Geo said.

“If we do our job right, you’ll see a lot of Israeli companies here. A lot of fellow entrepreneurs who want to connect,” he added.

He said Israeli companies are able to provide “advances technology” to local industries such as the medical, information technology, tourism, and agriculture sectors.

At present, IT technology-centric Israel has been contributing through solutions in the thriving business process outsourcing (BPO) sector of the country.

Asked of Israelis’ prospects in the country with the new Duterte Administration, Geo said, “Hopefully with the new government, the budgets would be allocated right.”

“Everybody is holding their breath, we do it for any incoming president. But at the end of the day, it’s what you do, not what you say. (Duterte is) surrounded by good advisers…I think he’s open-minded. He’s a very nice and charismatic guy. I think this guy is here to do right and we’re here to support him and the government,” the ICCP president said.

Geo said he hopes the ICCP would also “double” its Israeli member-companies to 100 within the year from about 50 members to date.

The 50 members at present are mostly tourism and hospitality-engaged Israeli firms, which are now looking at the Philippines as a “viable tourist destination” apart from the usual go-to destinations such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Israel also sees the Philippines as a potential major customer in defense products as the latter earlier seeks more defense equipment from the former. /Source Manila Times/

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