China aims to be top Philippine goods importer

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — China is seeking to dislodge Japan as the top importer of Philippine products as the relationship between Beijing and Manila continues to warm up.

China emerged as the country’s top trading partner in 2017, the first full year of the Duterte administration, with total bilateral trade valued at $23.82 billion, an increase from $21.9 billion in 2016.

The balance of trade between the two countries, however, still heavily favors China since the Philippines imports more products from the world’s second largest economy.

China was the country’s fourth biggest export market and its top import source last year.

“China is proud to be number one trade partner of the Philippines. But the fact is, the Philippines still suffers a deficit,” Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said yesterday.

With the improving political and economic relationship between the two countries, Zhao said China has the potential to be number one importer of Philippine products.

“I am confident that sooner or later, China will be the number one importer of Philippine products,” he said.

Last year, China was the fourth largest importer of Philippine products behind Japan, US and Hong Kong. Japan was also the top importer of Philippine products in 2016.

The top products which China imported from the country last year included storage units ($1.26 billion), digital monolithic integrated circuits ($1.12 billion), nickel ores and concentrates ($494.35 million), semiconductor devices ($329.74 million), and coal ($296.14 million).

“China is going to further open up our market and economy and we will go to prosper with all our trading partners, including the Philippines,” Zhao said.

With Philippine exports to China increasing by 9.73 percent last year, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez is optimistic the trend would continue in the coming years.

“We have the orders from them. It is now up to us to supply,” he said.

Lopez said among the products the country is eyeing to export more to China include fresh agriculture produce as well as processed marine and agriculture products.

By the end of the Duterte administration, Lopez said the Philippines hopes to balance trade with China, which President Xi Jinping earlier called for.

“Achieving that balance may take time. But assuming continued good and cooperative stance, maybe three to four years, hopefully within the term of President Duterte,” he said.

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