Philippine businesses are jumping at the chance to make deals with China, but tension is lingering at home

by Christopher Woody / Oct. 12, 2016/ BusinessInsider

The Chinese government said on Wednesday that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will visit China from October 18 to 21.

But even before the visit was confirmed, business leaders and executives in the Philippines were clamoring to take part in Duterte’s trip to one of the world’s biggest economies.

Who will be part of the delegation has not been announced, but on October 11 Reuters reported that business groups and government officials said registration for the trip had been “oversubscribed.”

The number of Philippine entrepreneurs to travel with Duterte swelled from about two dozen to about 250, according to Trade Undersecretary Nora Terrado, as they look to discuss potential deals in the rail, construction, tourism, agribusiness, power, and manufacturing sectors.

“I understand there are 100 more wanting to go,” Terrado told Reuters, adding that the size of the delegation was unusual because the two countries agreed on the visit only about a month ago.

The eagerness to do business with China comes amid an apparent thaw in previously frosty relations between Manila and Beijing, ties that had been strained over China’s assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea, which the Philippines and several other neighboring countries have rebuffed.

Duterte has not capitalized on a July 12 international-court ruling that dismissed China’s expansive claims. The current Philippine president said in April, prior to his election, that he would be willing to “shut up” about disputes in the sea if China provided aid.

Since Duterte took office in June, he has kept his conciliatory stance toward China, particularly on economic and political matters — a position that appears to have been enabled by China’s more measured approach to issues in the South China Sea.

More recently, business dealings between the two countries appear to be heating up.

On Saturday, Philippine Finance Minister Carlos Dominguez said that Duterte would seek billions of dollars in infrastructure investments from China over the coming months (which Chinese firms are open to providing). The following day, Philippine Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said China would lift a ban on fruit exports from 27 Philippine firms as a “gift” to Duterte. Read more…

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Philippine businesses are jumping at the chance to make deals with China, but tension is lingering at home

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