Beijing – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday courted Chinese investment in infrastructure, agriculture and tourism, urging businesses to take advantage of a ‘wave of optimism’ over his country’s economic prospects.
Aquino was speaking ahead of a state welcome and formal talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, which began late Wednesday afternoon at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
The two leaders planned to witness the signing of several trade and economic agreements after their talks.
‘China is an economic power; I now invite the Chinese business community to take part in this opportunity to invest in an emerging economic force in South-East Asia,’ Aquino said in a speech to about 600 officials and business leaders from the two nations.
‘The time to put in place strategic investments in tourism, agriculture and infrastructure is now,’ he said.
Speaking at the same forum, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said the two nations aimed to double bilateral trade to 60 billion dollars within five years.
The two nations should ‘tap their cooperation potential, expand trade volume [and] optimize the composition of imports and exports’ to hit the trade target by 2016, Wang said.
Bilateral trade was 27.7 billion dollars last year, making China the Philippines’ third-largest trading parter.
Aquino said his five-day visit was aimed at boosting trade and reducing recent tension between the two countries over disputed areas of the South China Sea.
Philippine media said the total value of deals expected to be signed during Aquino’s visit, which began late Tuesday, could reach 7 billion dollars.
Aquino said he wanted bilateral cooperation to ‘become stronger than ever’ but noted that China had reaped more benefit from economic ties.
‘Now, we have come here to balance the equation,’ he said.
The visit came months after tensions flared between Manila and Beijing over alleged incursions by China into Philippine-claimed areas around the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Aquino said before leaving Manila that he believed the territorial spat would not sabotage efforts to improve ties, which he likened to a marriage.
A commentary Wednesday by China’s official Xinhua news agency said the two nations had ‘the opportunity and responsibility to jointly tackle the ongoing challenge’ of their dispute in the South China Sea.
‘Success of their cooperation will, to some extent, rely on whether the two Asian countries can handle their disputes in a rational and pragmatic manner,’ the commentary said.
It criticized some Philippine politicians for ‘releasing irresponsible remarks’ and appearing ‘not to take China’s legitimate demands seriously.’
In March, the Philippines filed a protest with Beijing after a Chinese patrol vessel allegedly harassed a Philippine oil exploration ship in the Spratlys.
China claims the entire Spratlys, which are believed to be rich in oil, mineral and marine resources. The islands are also claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
After his talks in Beijing, Aquino was scheduled to visit the cities of Shanghai and Xiamen before returning to Manila Saturday, officials said.
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- Aquino Walks a Fine Line With China (Wall Street Journal) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- Pinoys in China hope Aquino will clarify Spratlys issue (GMA News) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- Asia: South China Sea: Beijing and Manila summit worries Hanoi (Asia News) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)