SMEs urged to maximize gains from warming PHL-China ties

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The country’s trade chief is urging small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to take advantage of President Duterte’s warm relations with Beijing leaders to expand their market in China.

In a speech at the Manila launching of the China International Import Export (CIIE) Expo, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told small entrepreneurs to turn their attention on China as a potential market for their products, as he cited the expanding trade relations between Manila and Beijing as one of the factors that SMEs might want to take note of and consider as an advantage.

“The participation of Philippine companies in the CIIE marks another step in the growth story of the Philippine-China trade and investment relations, as well as the continuing benefits of President Duterte’s independent foreign policy. From President Duterte’s 2016 state visit to China to the convening of the Philippines-China Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation last year, we have constantly sought to widen our trade engagements with China,” Lopez said.

The CIIE, which will be held from November 5 to 10 in Shanghai, China, will host several foreign enterprises, including Philippine-based, in an expo floor. The event is open only to foreign enterprises, but buyers—both Chinese and foreigners—are expected to flock the Shanghai expo.

According to Lopez, the CIIE is China’s showing to the world its “strong support for trade liberalization, as well as their way to actively open the Chinese market to the world.”

This, he said, is why the focus of the trade expo is on importation of goods and services to China, which, Lopez said SMEs can take advantage of, maintaining both Manila and Beijing are committed to strengthening the market access of their small entrepreneurs.

For trade in goods, the CIIE will feature high-end intelligent equipment; consumer electronics and appliances; automobile; apparel, accessories and consumer goods; food and agricultural products; and medical equipment and medical-care products. As for trade in services, it will comprise of tourism services; emerging technologies; culture and education; creative design; and service outsourcing.

Lopez said there will be over 100 Philippine products and service exports that will be showcased in the CIIE, making it the “biggest-ever overseas trade fair that our country will participate in.” Aside from SMEs, investors and government representatives will also be attending the expo.

The CIIE can also be considered as a follow-up to the Philippines-China SME Cross-Border Business Matching conducted March of last year that generated a total of 635 matches between Filipino and Chinese enterprises. “Thanks to these efforts, we are now building on the progress that we’ve achieved, even as Filipino businesses take advantage of the opportunities in working with their Chinese counterparts,” the trade chief said.

Why not, Lopez added, as China was the country’s top trading partner in the previous year. Total bilateral trade between Manila and Beijing was at $23.82 billion, which has seen China become the Philippines’s fourth-largest export market and top import source.

“I would like to reiterate how the CIIE can serve as an important opportunity to showcase the trade capabilities of the Philippines, as well as investment opportunities available between our two countries. At the same time, while this trade event will give our Filipino businesses access to the huge China market, it will certainly help deepen the bilateral trade relations between the Philippines and China,” Lopez said.

“We also hope that China will continue partnering with us to help push President Duterte’s socioeconomic agenda to create inclusive growth and shared prosperity, from promoting SME development to supporting our “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program. I am confident that, with the solid friendship between the Philippines and China, our two countries can better manage today’s political and economic challenges—even as we benefit from the increased access in trade and investment with each other,” he added.

The Philippines is currently enjoying warmer relations with China, as the President continues to sideline the maritime territorial dispute in the South China Sea. In spite of an arbitration ruling that awarded the Philippines ownership of the disputed waters, Beijing continues to build artificial islands in the area without strong contention from the Manila side.

Seemingly in return, China has committed to help Duterte complete his infrastructure master plan that will put up connectivity and transportation facilities in Metro Manila and other major urban centers across the country.

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