THE Philippines’ prospects for attracting European investment in the post-pandemic period could hinge on regional partnerships and the reduction of non-tariff barriers among ASEAN member states, the EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) said.

Businesses are more likely to invest in the Philippines if it expands its market beyond its 100 million population to the 650 million within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) Executive Director Chris Humphrey said in an online interview Tuesday.

“If these non-tariff barriers continue to exist between the ASEAN member states, you are naturally restricting your markets and therefore your attractiveness,” he said.

Non-tariff barriers include some sanitary and phytosanitary measures, pre-shipment inspections, complex regulations, and quantity and distribution restrictions, among others.

Mr. Humphrey said that ASEAN must harmonize its trade standards, simplify customs procedures, and reduce restrictions on business ownership.

“I don’t think any one country in the region can achieve what is needed coming out of this pandemic. It needs all 10 working together, and working faster together. If you get the regional approach right first then at that point the 10 countries can compete like crazy for the investments that they’re all going to be seeking going ahead,” he said.

“The economies of each country are not going to be big enough to attract the levels of investment that are required. They need to be moving as a bloc of 10.”

Mr. Humphrey said that he expects a redistribution of supply chains to minimize disruptions after the pandemic, which could create opportunities for the Philippines.

“You’ve got a young, dynamic, fairly well-educated population there as well, so there is a big chance here for the Philippines moving forward and attract more investment. But it needs to drag its ASEAN partners along with it.” — Jenina P. Ibañez