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The Joint Economic Committee will design a plan to strengthen economic connections between the Philippines and Israel.

MANILA, Philippines — Through their new Joint Economic Commission, the Philippines and Israel will develop a roadmap to improve trade and investment relations between the two countries (JEC).

Ilan Fluss, Israel’s ambassador to the Philippines, said in an interview on Friday that the first Joint Economic Committee meeting between the two governments will most likely take place this year.

“We’re waiting for the new administration to take office, and then we’ll design a roadmap that everyone can agree on,” Fluss said.

Last June 7, Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez and Israeli Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai signed a memorandum of agreement (MOU) establishing the JEC.

According to the Israeli envoy, the JEC will provide enormous economic opportunities for the two countries in terms of commerce and investment, and “we are not accessing the potential.”

With the reopening of the Philippine economy since the outbreak of the pandemic, Fluss believes the JEC is a good time to advance the two countries’ bilateral economic ties, particularly in agriculture, technology, information communications technology, cybersecurity, and electronics, among other areas.

Tomer Heyvi, the Economic Attaché and Head of the Economic Mission in Manila, noted that two-way goods trade between the Philippines and Israel reached USD323 million in 2021, nearly matching the pre-pandemic level of less than USD400 million.

However, commerce with the Philippines lags behind that of other Southeast Asian countries. Singapore has a one-billion-dollar trade surplus with Israel, which is followed by Vietnam and Thailand.

Heyvi noted that commerce in goods and services would develop quicker in the coming years as a result of the JEC and other cooperation agreements struck between the two countries during the Philippine delegation’s visit to Israel this week.

“At the moment, it isn’t living up to its full potential. In several fields, the potential is significantly bigger,” he remarked.

For example, Israel’s exports to the Philippines accounted for less than 1% of the country’s overall exports.

According to Fluss and Heyvi, the long-term goal is to establish a free trade agreement, but such an agreement would only be feasible if trade volumes increased, which the JEC might address.

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