USTDA to open office in Manila

The United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is opening an office in the Philippines’ capital in the first quarter of this year, further strengthening its presence in the southeast Asian country in a bid to focus more on key sectors deemed crucial by the institution.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said this during the Indo-Pacific Business Forum held in Makati City, saying the move was to meet the demands of the Philippine market and in recognition of the country’s economic potential.

“USTDA’s projects will focus on supply chains, clean energy, infrastructure and telecommunications,” Carlson said in her speech.

“Our work through the USTDA is just one facet of the flourishing economic partnership we have with the Philippines in multiple sectors,” she added.

The US official cited the industry development program launched a day earlier by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as an example, where both governments will work together to upscale the capacity of local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to be able to participate in the digital economy.

With an $18-billion budget for five years, the program dubbed as “Strengthening Private Enterprise for the Digital Economy (SPEED)” includes a grants program to drive and scale innovation among SMEs.

Carlson said the USTDA also signed on Thursday a new letter of intent for a $1.5-million grant to the Philippines, which will see a collaboration between Bell labs, Nokia USA, and NOW telecom to support clean and trusted 5G communication networks.

Sought for more details about this agreement, the US ambassador said it would involve the conduct of a feasibility study, saying that the USTDA often conducts such studies to determine the level of investor interest in specific sectors. Such studies are deemed necessary in attracting funding for and investments in concerned industries.

“USTDA doesn’t just provide studies strictly for US investors. Those can be used by the government and the private sector here to see where good matches can be made,” said Carlson at the sideline of the event.

Carlson, during the forum, also mentioned that a $1-million grant was also recently granted to Eramen minerals, a Filipino mining company, for a feasibility study on an environmentally sustainable mineral processing facility in the Philippines.