The president of the Philippines is spending time in China this week. So far, the official meetings have featured a lot of rhetoric and some diplomatic maneuvering. But they’re also covering trade deals and investment. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.
Friday headlines across Asia dwell on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments announcing a “separation” from the United States….as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping telling the Philippine leader they are “neighbors and blood brothers.” The territorial dispute the two countries have in the South China Sea is “taking a back seat” for the moment, in the words of Duterte.
Economics is a more immediate focus. The Philippine Trade Secretary says he expects nearly $14 billion in trade and investment deals to be signed during this visit. Earlier this week, the Philippine Stock Exchange Index had its best day in five months—on the prospect of increased China trade.
Despite tensions over the South China Sea, the two countries have a long-standing relationship. The Philippines established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1975—four years before the United States. The Philippine media site Rappler.com quotes government figures showing nearly 30-thousand Filipinos live in China…..and about the same number of Chinese live in the Philippines.
Annual trade between the two countries is nearly 18-billion dollars…about three-quarters of what it is between the Philippines and the United States. One key to watch as this relationship develops between Beijing and Manila is the pace of Chinese investment in the Philippines. Up to now, it’s been slow compared to other Southeast Asian countries….but that may soon be changing.