MALACANANG,  November 1, 2004
The US-ASEAN Business Council has reaffirmed its full confidence in the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her commitment to reforms that are expected to strengthen the business climate in the Philippines.

In his letter to the President, Walter Lohman, acting president of the Council, said, "business interest in the Philippines is growing."

"We are quite optimistic about the opportunities for trade and investment in the Philippines. We are very appreciative that in you we have found such a willing and enthusiastic partner," he said.

Lohman also expressed elation over the progress of the Business Framework Agreement (BFA) that American business executives represented by the Council had earlier discussed with the President. "We are pleased with BFA’s progress and are happy to get to work on the deliverables ahead. We are committed to our work in complementing your leadership with private sector support," he said.

The Council met last Sept. 14-16 with its Philippine counterpart, the US-Philippines Business Council, and discussed a broad range of issues concerning the power sector, on capital market development, free trade, trade and investment framework, customs modernization, biotechnology and port security.

The 43-member delegation from 20 big corporations in the United States was the biggest business group ever to visit the Philippines. President Macapagal-Arroyo addressed the group during its three-day meet.

Members of the business delegation represented such leading US companies as Boeing, East Asia Power, El Paso Energy International, FedEx, Flour Corporation, Ford Motors Company, Philip Morris Asia Ltd., Microsoft Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Quezon Power (Philippines) Limited, Unisys Corporation, Tyco Integrated System and UPS.

The Council’s outgoing president, Ernest Bower, had earlier expressed appreciation of the performance of the President and her economic managers.

"We believe in you, we believe in your agenda, you are a great winner of this country," Bower said. "We have read your SONA, we have read your speeches and you have a very impressive presentation of your economic plans. On behalf of the delegation, we would like to help you implement this agenda," he added.

Bower also lauded the President for being "a great warrior in fighting graft and corruption."

On Nov.12, the US-ASEAN Business Council, in cooperation with ICT Commission of the Philippines and the Philippines-US Business Council, will hold the Cabinet Forum: Harnessing ICT for Effective Governance in Manila. The forum is intended to build a strong partnership that would help push the designing of an ICT architecture for the Philippine government.

The US remains the Philippines’ top investor and trading partner with direct investments of $4.7 billion in 2003 and $7.3 billion in two-way trade in the first six months of 2004. The Philippines and the US are advancing a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement that will open the way for negotiations on a US-Philippines Free Trade Agreement in the future.

The US-ASEAN Business Council is America’s leading private business organization dedicated to promoting increased trade and investments between the Unites States and the member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Council’s membership includes 150 of the Fortune 500 companies with trade and investment interests in the ASEAN region.

The Council’s members represent diverse industries, including aerospace, agribusiness, automobiles, computers and information technology, media and entertainment industry, consumer goods, energy exploration and development, express delivery services, financial services, health care and pharmaceuticals, mining, software, and telecommunications.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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