A DELEGATION from France has urged the Philippines to ease investment rules in more sectors, particularly in public service and retail, the Department of Trade and Industry said following a bilateral economic meeting between Manila and Paris.

The main concerns of the French delegation center on the foreign investment negative list, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

Gusto nila mas ma-open up pa (The French want further opening),” Mr. Lopez told reporters after the 8th Joint Economic Committee meeting between the Philippines and France on Friday in Makati City.

“I think they’re looking into public service and retail. They view it as a good move for us to fast-track reform of the foreign investment regime,” he added.

The Public Service Act of 1936 lists several sectors as “public utilities” from which foreigners are barred from owning more than 40%.

Two measures, House Bill 5828 and Senate Bill 1754, aim to limit the definition of public utilities to the distribution and transmission of electricity; and water pipeline distribution systems or sewerage pipeline systems.

The two bills did not pass under the 17th Congress, and neither did measures aimed at liberalizing retail trade.

House Bill No. 9057 and Senate Bill 1639 sought to amend Republic Act No. 8762, or the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000, which requires foreigners seeking to fully own a retail business to have $2.5 million minimum paid-up capital.

Mr. Lopez said other areas of interest to the French business delegation are aerospace, automotive, cable cars, electronics and the creative industries.

However, specific commitments have yet to be laid down.

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State with the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, said he hopes the next Joint Economic Committee (JEC) to take place in “one to three years maximum.”

“The French companies that were here had the opportunity to expose their expertise, their know-how, and the fact is that we French, we are not just here to help, to design, or to build, but also to operate, to stay, because we do not want just a one-shot cooperation, but a strategic relation between our companies and our countries,” Mr. Lemoyne said in his speech at the signing of the summary of discussions of the JEC. — Janina C. Lim