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‘Double effort’ needed on trade to ease China tensions, DTI says

By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter

TRADE needs to continue despite tensions with China over disputed waters to the west of the Philippines, a Trade department official said at a roadshow promoting the Canton Fair.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said Philippine participation in China’s longest-running trade fair will help enhance economic relations and offset any tensions arising from the dispute, which has recently featured Chinese Coast Guard ships obstructing Philippine resupply missions to a military outpost occupying a beached Navy ship, the BRP Sierra Madre.

“Trade is a potent force for peace. Even President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said that we should separate politics from the economy because there are grave things that are happening. We’re not denying that, in fact, we’re saying these are grave issues that are being faced by the Philippines and China,” Mr. Rodolfo said at the roadshow in Seda Hotel BGC. 

“But because of the graveness of these issues, the challenge really is on the economic side, that we should also really be working doubly hard, so that we can further enhance our economic and trade relations,” he added.

Cecilio K. Pedro, president of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. said at the event that “the path to peace and prosperity lies in the steadfast economic cooperation between our two countries.”

Mr. Pedro added: “Peace is not going to be attained in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), peace is going to be attained through trade. We have to trade with each other” in spite of the WPS dispute.

The 135th fair takes place between April 15 and May 5 in Guangzhou, over 150 hectares of exhibition space.

Although the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will not organize a Philippine delegation for the event, Mr. Rodolfo said that it will encourage entrepreneurs to explore the Canton Fair for sourcing opportunities and the opportunity to persuade Chinese companies to engage with the Philippines.

“The Canton Fair is proven to be an important avenue for us to showcase our products and services to the Chinese market and to also benchmark against the best of the best of the world,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

“I am certain that our engagement in this prestigious event will further improve trade and investment relations between the Philippines and China in the coming years,” he added.

He said that China remained the Philippines top trading partner in 2023 with bilateral trade amounting over $40 billion, while investments from China in the 2018-2023 period amounted to $3 billion.

The Philippines is trying to attract Chinese investments in mineral processing as nickel and copper ores and concentrates remain the country’s top exports to China.