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 DTI Sec Ramon Lopez with Zhong Shan from China
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez convened a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan at the sidelines of the Philippine hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings.

Seeing the assuring growth in the economic relations with the Philippines (PH), China (CN) conveyed that it will increase development assistance to the Philippines.

At the sidelines of the PH hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting and Related Meetings, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, who serves as the 2017 AEM chair, convened a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.

PH and CN discussed various measures to enhance trade and investment relations arising from the PH-CN Six-Year Development Program (SYDP) for Trade and Economic Cooperation 2017-2022 (SYDP) and the Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation (JCETC).

As part of the realization of the priority activities under the SYDP, the ministers endorsed the finalization of the Memorandum of Understanding on Industrial Parks Development between the Philippine Board of Investments (BOI) and China’s Ministry of Commerce.

“This initiative to develop industrial parks in the Philippines will help enhance the country’s manufacturing base and increase domestic production,” said Sec. Lopez.

A ground-breaking activity for some of the infrastructure projects under the SYDP was also proposed to be initiated within 2017. Said activity will be led by the respective infrastructure groups of both sides.

PH, meanwhile, mentioned potential areas for further cooperation including infrastructure, manufacturing (e.g. aircrafts parts, bicycles, e-vehicles, iron and steel, shipbuilding and irradiation facilities), cross-border e-commerce, big data analytics, and creative industries.

Both sides positively noted the improved trade and economic relations between PH and CN resulting from the Presidential Visit to China in October 2016, as well as from the successful convening of the JCETC in March 2017. PH exports to China increased to almost US$2.17 billion in January-April 2017, from US$1.69 billion in 2016. Further, PH exports of tropical fruits to China has increased remarkably in the 4th quarter of 2016 (compared to previous years), following the State Visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to China. In 2016, PH exports of bananas to China increased to US$144.77 million against US$109.15 million in 2015. During the same period, PH exports of pineapples more than doubled from US$16.26 million in 2015 to US$44.27 million.

Minister Zhong reiterated CN’s commitment to help PH rebalance trade by importing more from the country. He also invited PH to the China International Import Expo, which will be held in 2018. The Expo is part of CN’s move to further open its market and increase imports from other countries.

Minister Zhong also expressed his support for the growing interest of Chinese enterprises to invest and explore business opportunities in PH as demonstrated through the various letters of intent (LOIs) presented to the Board of Investments last March 2017.

In conclusion, the ministers agreed to work closely together to implement the consensus reached by their Leaders on pursuing practical and cooperative relations between both countries. PH also thanked CN for its support to ASEAN in driving the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.

A two-year strategic cooperation agreement between the Philippines and China was signed recently (October 21) at the Bank of China (BOC) Headquarters to service small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of both countries, in an aim to boost mutual trade and investment.
 
The BOC, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Philippines were the parties involved in the agreement, which intended to build a communication platform between SME customers of both countries to enable smooth cross-border cooperation.
 
In the same meeting with BOC top officials, the bank likewise submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte a pledge of USD3 billion-worth financing facility for industrial and infrastructure projects that will aid in the Philippines’ development efforts.
 
On the SME cooperation agreement, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez explained that DTI and BOC agreed to explore new modes of cooperation and services to assist the SMEs of both sides and to exchange knowledge on best practices on SME strategies. Fostering a favorable communication environment for SMEs and promoting economic and technological exchanges and cooperation between both sides formed part joint strategy to strengthen business relations.
 
In 2017, parties will co-sponsor SMEs’ cross-border investment and trade fair. The DTI will identify appropriate Philippine participation among DTI clients. Parties will also co-organize exchange visits among Chinese and Philippine enterprises in 2017 for special investments and business collaboration meetings.
 
On the agreement’s manner of cooperation, BOC will initiate the organization of trade conferences, and will share its innovative mode of trade matchmaking service, the “BOC Global SME Cross-border Matchmaking Service,” which overturns the traditional mode for attracting investments by adopting a six-step process, including establishing a database for Chinese and foreign enterprises, customer matching, remote online matchmaking, one-to-one meeting, onsite inspection and all-around banking service.
 
The DTI will also support trade conferences in line with existing DTI SME programs, such as the SME Roving Academy, Mentor Me and other related activities.
 
Sec. Lopez views the Philippines’ thrust to strengthen ties with its Asian neighbors a positive move. President Duterte has been keenly establishing good rapport with the Asian governments of Lao PDR, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and most recently, China and Japan.
 
“As we maintain relations with our existing partners, we will revive stronger integration with our neighbors, who have been the country’s economic and trading partners for centuries,” said Sec. Lopez.
 
These developments open up deeper commitments in enhancing economic, trade and investment ties, reaffirming President Duterte’s vision of regional economic integration, according to the trade chief, adding that the recent presidential visits should be seen as a symbol of renewing old friendships but not denying the already-established ones.
 
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