Trade Mission participants line up to speak during a reception at the US Embassy in Manila.
The trade mission delegation and U.S. Embassy staff celebrate a successful event.
From left, U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, IFA Director of International Affairs Josh Merin and Senior Commercial Officer Jim McCarthy address a high-level networking reception in the ballroom of the U.S. Embassy, Manila.
As typhoon Rammasan was making its way towards the Philippines, franchise executives from all over the world were headed to make waves in Southeast Asia as IFA, in partnership with Franchise Times and the U.S. Commercial Service, led a delegation to explore opportunities in the Philippine franchise market July 17-20. Mission participants braved delayed and rerouted flights while those who arrived early relied on the Ascott Makati hotel’s generators to get them through the storm.
As the storm calmed and the sun started to shine, the mission kicked off with a visit to the historic US Embassy in Manila. With the Philippines becoming increasingly a consumption-led and service-oriented economy, the franchise sector is a powerful tool for local development. The mission allowed 14 dynamic American franchise concepts to explore the expanding Philippine market. The goal is to investigate partnership opportunities with master franchisees and area developers in the Philippines. Companies such as Edible Arrangements, Jan-Pro, Panda Express, PJ’s Coffee, Russo’s NY Pizzeria, Tilted Kilt, Title Boxing Club, Tutor Doctor, World of Beer, and WOW Café are ready to meet one-on-one with potential candidate companies that can help them expand their product to the region.
There are deep historical and cultural ties between the Philippines and the US. Currently, there are 4 million Filipinos living in the US and 400,000 US citizens living in the Philippines. This drives Filipino familiarity with US brands as well as an appetite for them. US Embassy employee, Kelan Evans of the Foreign Agricultural Service, referred to the US as the Philippines’ #1 supplier and consumer of agricultural goods. Kristin Keedler from the Embassy’s’ Public Affairs Section stated that there is a very positive perception of Americans and US culture in the Philippines.
While US franchises takes the lead and are welcomed with open arms, the Filipino market is shifting. According to Samie Lim, Chairman Emeritus, Philippines Franchise Association, “US franchises once dominated the Philippines, but Asian franchises are now coming in very fast. The Filipino franchise community has grown a great deal in sophistication.” GDP growth is second only to China in the region. This growth is projected to continue for at least 5 years and looks sustainable. “President Aquino has been an economic reformer and while 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, things seem to be changing,” stated Joel Ehrendriech, Economic Counselor, US Embassy. With a steadily growing economy, the Philippines’ is a prime franchise market with a growing sophistication of the business community and a desire for US brands. US Deputy Chief of Mission Brian Goldbeck said, “The market is poised, you are right to look at this market now.”
Mission participants spent the day of the 18th in matchmaking meetings with potential business partners arranged by the US Commercial Service. Companies met with as many as 12 potential partners in one hour blocks over the course of the day. The meetings were conducted in private rooms at the Ascott Makati hotel.
Afterwards, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg hosted the delegation and leaders from the Filipino business community for a well-received catered networking reception with live music. Attendees included the Philippines’ Secretary of Finance, Cesar Purisma and Chairman Emeritus of the Philippines Franchise Association and “Father of Philippine Franchising” Samie Lim. Ambassador Goldberg, Senior Commercial Officer Jim McCarthy, and Josh Merin, IFA’s Director of International Affairs, made remarks during the event. Merin then introduced the mission participants who each made brief remarks. Reporters from 12 media outlets, including the two largest newspapers in the Philippines visited the hotel to cover the mission.