22 September 2018

Published also in Business Mirror

THE Philippines is keen on strengthening economic relations with one of China’s key provinces, Fujian. In a business networking conference organized by the Fujian government and led by Gov. Tang Dengjie on  September 14, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez discussed trade and investment opportunities in the Philippines, as well as the Philippine government’s commitment to facilitate ease in doing business in the country.

“We have strong historical ties with Fujian province and its people. Our proximity with each other has attracted so many Fujian investors to do business in the country and partner with other Filipino business groups. Some of the known Filipino-Chinese Taipans trace their origins from Fujian. And now that we have renewed our relationship with China, we can push further our collaboration in enhancing trade and investment relations that would have mutual benefits for both parties,” Lopez said.

The trade chief encouraged Fujian businesses to locate and expand their operations in the Philippines. He emphasized the Philippines as a critical entry point to over 600 million people in the Asean market and a natural gateway to the East-Asian economies.

He underscored preferential trade agreements with different trading partner countries, such as Asean, Japan, China, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Likewise, he highlighted the Philippines’s participation in United States’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), as well as the free-trade agreement signed by the country to the European Free Trade Association (Efta) member-states.

Lopez reiterated the Philippines’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals, as well as ongoing government reforms and programs, to assist investors in doing business in the country. He also invited Fujian business delegation, particularly those from the construction and engineering industries, to participate in the infrastructure development program of the government and employ Filipino professionals. He emphasized the country’s rich talent pool and young population, wherein 62.4 percent of the population is of working age, between 15 and 64.

Fujian Gov. Tang Dengjie expressed his positive outlook for the Philippine and Fujian economic relations. The governor said the Philippines is an important investment destination for Fujian. He also commended the economic and investment breakthroughs of the Philippines and China, as well as both parties’ efforts to promote people-to-people relations.

During the conference, 15 cooperation and joint-venture agreements were signed by high-level representatives of Fujian companies and Filipino businesses. The agreements signed covered industry, agriculture, tourism and real-estate collaborations. There were also agreements signed to purchase Philippine banana amounting to $4.51 million from Del Monte Fresh Produce and $6.27 million from Verde Horizon Agri-Ventures Corp.

“Fujian investors and members of their business sector have strong interest in investing in the Philippines considering our potentials. They would also like to ride on our growing economy and join us in maintaining its momentum,” Lopez added.

Relations between the Philippines and China improved under the administration of President Duterte. In 2017 China ranked as the Philippines’s top trading partner, fourth- largest export market and top import supplier. Philippine exports to China grew by 25.81 percent, from $6.37 billion in 2016 to $8.02 billion in 2017.

Approved foreign investments from China also increased by 53.6 percent, from P1.52 billion in 2016 to P2.3 billion in 2017. It ranked ninth among Philippines’s largest source of foreign investments.

The tourism sector also benefitted with the Philippines’s renewed relationship with China. Growing Chinese tourist arrivals were noted for the past three years. From 490,000 in 2015 and 675,000 Chinese tourists in 2016, the number posted a significant increase in 2017 with 968,000 tourist arrivals.

Fujian province is situated at China’s southeast coast and was the starting point of the ancient Maritime Silk Road, which figures prominently in China’s opening to the outside world. Fujian has some 120 harbors along the 3,700 kilometers of its coastline. Their GDP growth in 2017 reached eight percent to a level of  $472.1 billion. Its capita per GDP exceeded $12,000 and ranked sixth in their nation.