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‘Rift with EU to hurt economy’

MANILA, Philippines – A rift with the European Union will have negative consequences for the Philippine economy, European business leaders said yesterday.

“What has been reported in the news this morning (Wednesday) is in my view not to the benefit of the Philippines,” Nordic Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Bo Lundqvist told The STAR.

He was referring to President Duterte’s recent outburst after the European Parliament criticized him for the rising death toll in his war on illegal drugs.

Duterte used the F-word at the EU and gave a dirty finger in remarks at a gathering of local officials in Davao City.

The EU, however, in a statement said “we don’t comment on comments.”

“The European Union and the Philippines enjoy good relations, and we will continue to discuss this issue, among many others, in our bilateral contacts with the authorities,” it added.

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Lundqvist said the negative exposure the Philippines is receiving globally because of the drug-related killings would have “regrettable effect” on foreign direct investments and tourism, both considered a key growth booster.

“I believe in constructive dialogue about issues, where every position and opinion from all stakeholders can be heard and respected. EU as a block, as well as its individual members, are an important trading partner of the Philippines, and a major stakeholder in its future success. I believe a cooperative approach from both parties would produce better results, remove potential obstacles and create better opportunities for all,” Lundqvist said.

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Guenter Taus said that while the group is keeping its focus on business, it acknowledges the role of politics in influencing business sentiment.

“It appears that changed rhetoric does pave an entirely different landscape for business and politics alike. Whether or not this will ultimately lead to long-term negative effects on bilateral agreement or not remains to be seen,” Taus explained.

“However, the fact remains that negative publicity abroad will and does lead to reduced investor confidence which will ultimately lead to negative impacts for the business community and ultimately to the job market.” - Pia Lee-Brago

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