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DTI Sec Ramon Lopez Handi Hanling Wu
DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez (left) and Handi Group President Hanling Wu.

MAKATI – The Philippines (PH) continues to receive business intentions and expansion projects from large companies based in China (CN).

In a recent meeting between Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and Handi Group President Hanling Wu, they discussed possibility of investments of the company in a petroleum refining and petrochemical manufacturing facility in the country.

“We welcome business intentions to strengthen our petrochemical industry, which the government actively supports. They expressed strong confidence on the business environment stability during the Duterte administration,” said Sec. Lopez.

Handi Group is one of the largest and advanced private specialty oil producers in China. The conglomerate is based in Hainan Province and engages in multiple industries, including oil refinery, chemical industry, trading, investment, and financing.

The group, through its subsidiaries Hainan Handi Sunshine Petrochemical Co., Ltd. (HDS), Hainan Handi Petrochemical Co., Ltd. (HDP), Handi Lubricant Technology (China) Co., Ltd., Handi Sunshine Trading Co., Ltd., and Handi Investment, has established a full scale and long-term strategic cooperation with large international energy companies such as ExxonMobil, Total, Chevron, and BASF.

Sec. Lopez opened the discussion of putting up a facility in Mindanao, which will be suitable for the company’s power, land, and accessibility requirements.

Mr. Wu conveyed the need of Handi Group for a pool of technical staff, specifically engineers, from PH and the availability of talents in Mindanao.

“There are a lot of universities in Mindanao that produce quality graduates and professionals in the field of engineering. We have good universities present in all parts of PH,” the Sec Lopez said.♦

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – ASEAN and Hong Kong, China (HKC) strengthened vibrant trade and economic relations with the signing of the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) and ASEAN – Hong Kong Investment Agreement (AHKIA) at the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits on 12 November 2017 in Manila.

The two agreements are part of the region’s continuous efforts in expanding external economic relations to foster greater trade opportunities for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

“This will open more opportunities for ASEAN as we ensure greater market access for our products and sustained flow of foreign direct investments (FDI),” said Secretary Ramon Lopez, this year’s Chairperson of the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM).

Lopez shared that these agreements would provide job opportunities for people and enhance collaboration among businesses, particularly the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector.

AHKFTA is ASEAN’s sixth free trade agreement (FTA) with external partners, after ASEAN-China FTA (ACFTA), ASEAN-Korea FTA (AKFTA), ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP), ASEAN-India FTA (AIFTA), and ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA). It covers trade in goods, rules of origin, non-tariff measures, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, trade in services, intellectual property rights, and economic and technical cooperation.

In the case of the Philippines (PH), which is an advocate of establishing an inclusive and innovative region, the deals provide more opportunities for MSMEs as well as to the country’s export industries given HKC’s role as gateway to the China market and their annual tourist arrivals.

For the first eight months of 2017, HKC was PH’s third top export destination with US$5.55 billion worth of exports equivalent to 13.18% of the country’s total exports. Meanwhile, approved investments from HKC for the first semester of 2017 amounted to US$10.74 million, making it the 12th source of investments of the country.♦

A free trade agreement between ASEAN and Hong Kong will reinforce the latter’s role as the premier gateway into and out of Mainland China, boosting trade and investment across Asia and the world including ASEAN.

A day after announcing the signing of the ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) in November in Manila, ASEAN Economic Ministers chairman and Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez discussed the elements covered by said agreement during the ASEAN-Hong Kong Business Conference on 12 July.

“We are hopeful for greater trade and business opportunities with AHKFTA in place, reinforcing Hong Kong as the key gateway to China,” said Sec. Lopez.

Aside from the FTA, also for signing in November at the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit is an investment agreement between both sides.

The AHKFTA covers elements related to trade in goods and related issues such as tariffs, rules of origin, non-tariff measures, customs procedures and trade facilitation, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

It also touches on trade in services; investment; intellectual property rights; dispute settlement; horizontal and institutional issues; economic and technical cooperation; and other areas of interest to be mutually agreed upon.

In 2015, Hong Kong was ASEAN’s 7th largest trading partner. While ASEAN was Hong Kong’s 2nd largest trading partner, after China for the same year.

Total merchandise trade between ASEAN and Hong Kong amounted to HKD 823.3B or US$ 106.1B. This amount represents 10.8% of Hong Kong’s global merchandise trade in 2015, registering an annual average growth rate of 3.2% per annum between 2011 and 2015.

To date, there are more than 500 ASEAN companies in Hong Kong, including regional headquarters, regional offices and local offices. They account for 6.6% of the total number of foreign companies in Hong Kong.

In this regard, the trade chief encouraged businessmen from ASEAN Member States (AMS) and Hong Kong to continue partnering with ASEAN, particularly with the Philippines, which currently experiences economic resurgence with strong macroeconomic fundamentals and high investors’ confidence.

With the instrument in place, the Filipino business community can expect broader trade engagements with their Hong Kong counterparts.

In 2016, Hong Kong was the Philippines’ 5th trading partner, 3rd top export market, and 10th import supplier with total bilateral trade valued at US$9.11B in 2016. In terms of investments, Hong Kong ranked as the 15th source of IPA (investment promotion agencies)-approved investments in the Philippines.

“Hong Kong is a viable target market for Philippine consumer goods and brands, with Hong Kong serving as a gateway to the China market by providing other economies with a venue for marketing their goods to Mainland China consumers,” Sec. Lopez said.

In addition, Hong Kong hosts an estimated 60 million tourists a year, of which 40 million are from the Mainland. Such fits with the initial assessment of the Philippine Export Marketing Bureau that the Philippines can promote products in Hong Kong, including jewelry and design-driven products like luxury furniture, home furnishings, decors and fashion accessories, according to the trade chief.

With regard to services, both sides are exploring cooperation to develop education services, computer and related services, professional services and other business services, all of which are of interest to the Philippines.

Sec. Lopez also shared that ASEAN continues to make strides towards integrating the region into the global economy through its active FTAs with dialogue partners China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand.

Spearheading promotion efforts under the blooming economic relations with China, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary for Trade and Investments Promotion Group Nora K. Terrado led the Philippine Delegation to the 14th China-ASEAN (CAEXPO) and 14th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) held from 12 to 15 September at the Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Center (NICEC) in Guangxi Province, China.

Usec Terrado China ASEAN Expo
The Philippine country pavilion at the 14th China-ASEAN Expo and 14th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Nanning, Guangxi, China. Leading the Philippine delegation is DTI Undersecretary for Trade and Investments Promotion Group Nora K. Terrado (5th from left) with Philippine Consulate in Guangzhou Consul General Marie Charlotte Tang (2nd from right) and Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Guangzhou Commercial Counselor John Paul Inigo.

Comprising the Philippine contingent of over 100 participants are local export companies, Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) such as the Board of Investments (BOI), Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Subic Bay Metropolitan Area (SBMA), Clark Development Corporation (CDC), and the Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA) as well as businessmen and government sector representatives aiming to promote Philippine tourism and business opportunities to the huge Chinese and Southeast Asian market.

“This is an opportune time for the Philippines to fully present its potential as an investment destination to the Chinese market. It is also a chance for Philippine exporters to meet with potential partners and buyers of their products and services and see how they can maximize the booming trend in China,” said DTI Undersecretary Terrado.

The country’s contingent in China highlighted the Philippines’ trade potential through an exhibit of products and commodities from various sectors, including home, fashion and wearables, gifts, handicraft, personal care, and food.

Moreover, the Philippine participation also gave spotlight to this year’s Philippine featured destination, the province of Aurora. Tagged as the “Province of Charm”, the Aurora provincial government led by Vice Governor Rommel Angara, presented its booming tourism industry and economic potential particularly its agriculture sector.

“High on our agenda as we send Philippine trade missions abroad is opening more opportunities for countryside development. That is why we are happy to introduce Aurora province to the Chinese and Southeast Asian market as it has tremendous potential in the tourism and agriculture sector,” explained Terrado.

Currently, Aurora’s growth is primarily driven by agriculture. The sector employs approximately half of its population with about 49,991 hectares or 15% of the provincial land area classified as cultivated farmlands. Major crops include rice, coconut, coffee, bananas, root crops, corn, citrus fruits, peanuts, and abaca. The province is also a major producer of the Philippine's coconut distilled alcoholic drink known as "lambanog," and “tuba” which are made from the sap of coconut tree flowers.

Terrado served as the key speaker at the China-Philippines Production Capacity and Investment Cooperation Forum co-organized by the National Development and Reform Commission of China and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, a Philippine Investment Promotion Conference was also held at the sidelines of the CAEXPO on 13 September, jointly organized by DTI Board of Investments, Center for International Trade Exhibitions and Mission (CITEM) and Philippine Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs).

The China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) is co-sponsored by Ministries/Department of Commerce or industry and trade of China and the 10 ASEAN member states and was organized by the People’s Government of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is considered as the second biggest trade event in China, with a total exhibition space of about 122,000 sqm. This year’s CAEXPO had 4,600 exhibition booths with around 57,000 visitors.

CAEXPO has grown into an event of special international influence and plays an important role in promoting the China-ASEAN friendly cooperation and building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

For the 14th CAEXPO, the theme is to "Jointly Build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Promote Regional Economic Integration through Tourism," highlighting the vast potential of tourism industry between ASEAN and China. Through this international trade fair, China eyes to connect and boost its investments in ASEAN countries and provide infrastructure networks particularly for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to participate in the global value chain.

Philippine participation at the 14th CAEXPO is in partnership with the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry and in close collaboration with The Philippine Consulate General and the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Guangzhou.

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