Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez met newly-appointed Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan in Manila on 7 March 2017, on the occasion of the 28th Philippines-China Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation (JCETC).

Secretary Lopez welcomed Minister Zhong on his first official trip as the top leader of China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM).

“We foresee a more meaningful engagement with our good neighbour [China] in the coming years as we work with renewed vigor towards a deepened and strengthened cooperation based on mutual values, goals and results,” said Sec. Lopez.

The ministers agreed on important initiatives geared towards improving overall levels of trade and investment between the two countries. Foremost among these is the SixYear Development Program for Economic and Trade Cooperation (SYDP) that will serve as the overall framework for economic relations from 2017-2022. The SYDP was endorsed by the JCETC for signing during the visit of a high-level delegation from China in the latter part of March 2017.

A list of priority infrastructure projects to be funded by available Chinese credit facility was also taken up. Both sides encouraged participation by the private sector in infrastructure projects, industrial parks development, cross border e-commerce, big data analytics, creative industries, electric vehicles, iron and steel, manufacturing, testing facilities, irradiation facilities, and export promotion.

Lastly, the meeting also positively noted the five Letters of Intent (LOI) for potential private sector investments from China on oil downstream projects, aviation industry (including aircraft parts manufacturing), waste to energy through gasification, ship building, and ship repair facility and integrated steel facility.

“We are pleased that government efforts are moving in parallel with opportunities being opened for the private sector to come in, as demonstrated by the signing of the LOIs last week, showing a shift to more innovative and high technology manufacturing,” said Sec. Lopez, citing also that tourism arrivals from China in the country reached 675,663 in 2016.

Led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the JCETC is the official bilateral mechanism for discussion of trade, investments and economic cooperation and was convened at the ministerial level in support of high-level policy pronouncements on strengthened bilateral ties.

The JCETC was convened after a five-year hiatus, and serves as a quick follow through of President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China last October 2016 that led to positive strides towards renewed bilateral relations. The re-convening of the JCETC serves as testament to the commitment of both sides to bring to fruition the huge trade and investment potentials between the two countries.

Under the JCTEC mechanism is the Economic Cooperation Working Group (ECWG), led by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in close coordination with the Department of Finance (DOF). The ECWG met on 6 March 2017 to discuss matters related to infrastructure, loan financing, and grant cooperation. These outcomes were reported to the JCETC.

China is the Philippines’ 2nd major trading partner, 4th largest export market and 1st import supplier in 2015. It is also the 14th top source of IPA-approved inward investments to the Philippines in the same year.