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Duterte to woo US businessmen at APEC meet

DA NANG — President Duterte will try to woo the members of the US business council during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economic leaders meeting this week.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Duterte would meet with the US business councils at the sidelines of the APEC plenary sessions. The Philippines will stress the importance of APEC as a “driver of growth,” and in aiding integrated economies and the promotion of the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME).

 “We will also meet with the US business councils,” Lopez said, adding Duterte is expected to deliver a keynote address at the APEC CEO Summit.

The initiative to court US businessmen at the APEC meet came more than a year after Duterte told foreign businessmen to “pack up and leave” after a US envoy to Asia criticized his fiery rhetoric and bloody drug war were bad for business.

Duterte had also described Americans as “really crazy.”  The chief executive’s harsh words toward the officials of the Obama administration also caused the suspension of the $433-million grant by the US-based Millenium Challenge Corp. (MCC).

Last week, the MCC also saw the Philippines failing to hurdle several indicators, including corruption.

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The APEC will be the best opportunity for Duterte and his delegation “to sell the Philippines” by seeking investments abroad, Lopez said.

Lopez cited the Philippines’ gains during the Duterte administration despite the  political noise coming from the chief executive’s critics.

 “The political noise is being ignored,” he said, citing the chief executive’s high political satisfaction which also boosts the country’s stability. “(We have) one of the most stable democratic institutions (which) are all functioning. We have a very active media, a very active Congress, Lopez said.

The meetings will be on the sidelines of the APEC Leaders’ Forum here, where Duterte will also have a chance for a personal encounter with US President Trump.

Foreign affairs officials confirmed earlier report by The STAR that Trump and Duterte would not have a bilateral meeting in Vietnam since the US leader will be in Manila to attend the ASEAN Summit and the East-Asia Summit.

 “Based on the schedule, President Trump is on his way to Manila on the 12th, 13th and 14th. And there is already in the schedule a bilateral between President Trump and President Duterte,”  said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for International Affairs Manuel Teehankee.

From Nov. 8 to 12, Duterte will join 20 other leaders from Asia Pacific economies, including Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, China President Xi Jinping and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for the annual talks on facilitating trade and investment liberalization, business facilitation and economic and technical cooperation.

The Duterte-Trump meeting in Manila will be “a fuller bilateral” with a “more impressive in the ASEAN context,” Teehankee said.

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