State visits to upgrade China's economic cooperation with Brunei and the Philippines

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/19 22:53:39

Cooperation with Brunei, Philippines can improve: experts

Fruit from the Philippines is displayed at an international fruit and vegetable expo held in Beijing. File photo: VCG

The visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Brunei and the Philippines will help upgrade China's economic and trade cooperation with the two countries, which has developed to some extent in recent years but still remains tepid, experts said on Monday.

Xi is currently paying a state visit to  Brunei, the first by a Chinese head of State in 13 years to the Southeast Asian nation, according to a report from the Xinhua News Agency.

Brunei is the second stop of Xi's ongoing Asia-Pacific tour, which has already taken him to Papua New Guinea. He will also visit the Philippines, Xinhua reported.

During talks between the two countries' top leaders on Monday, China and Brunei agreed to upgrade their relations to a strategic cooperative partnership.

The two also pledged to be good partners featuring mutual trust in politics, mutual benefit in terms of the economy, mutual understanding in people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and mutual assistance in multilateral affairs, Xinhua said.

An article written by Xi and published in several Philippine newspapers on Monday noted that the two countries' top leaders will have in-depth discussions on how to elevate the two countries' all-round cooperation, in areas such as business, trade, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism.

In an interview with the Xinhua News Agency and other Chinese media outlets on Sunday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that Xi's visit will push the two countries' relations to a new height and will comprehensively deepen cooperation in various sectors.

Room for improvement

Experts told the Global Times that although China's economic relations with the Philippines and Brunei have improved in recent years, the cooperation is still only at a basic level.

Data revealed by Gao Feng, spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce, to the Global Times on Thursday showed that bilateral trade between China and Brunei surged by 88.7 percent year-on-year to $1.31 billion in the first nine months this year. China also invested $2.7 billion in Brunei by the end of this September.

Xu Liping, a Southeast Asian studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China's economic cooperation with Brunei has given birth to some "flagship projects" in recent years, such as the Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor.

Meanwhile, the bilateral trade volume between China and the Philippines surged by 12.4 percent year-on-year to $41.5 billion in the first nine months, according to the data provided by Gao.

But China's economic relations with Brunei and the Philippines are still "lagging behind" and there is considerable room for development, Xu told the Global Times on Monday, saying that Xi's visit will be an opportunity to "upgrade" the cooperation.

Different needs

Experts told the Global Times that China's economic cooperation with Brunei and the Philippines will grow in different directions, but the two nations are likely to seek an increase in exports to China.

Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, said that the Philippines, with its weak infrastructure foundations, should seek more overseas investment, particularly in terms of infrastructure construction, from China.

According to Duterte, China and the Philippines are proceeding with cooperation on many projects, some of which will be completed soon. The Philippines will also further negotiate with China on how to deepen bilateral cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative, the Xinhua report noted.

"The Philippines will also seek to export more agricultural products, like bananas, to China," Gu told the Global Times on Monday.

According to a report by the Manila Bulletin newspaper in September, China has recently signed new deals to buy more bananas from the Philippines, with two agreements being signed amounting to $4.51 million with Del Monte Fresh Produce and $6.27 million with Verde Horizon Agri-Ventures Corp.

"In terms of Brunei, it is a small but quite developed country, so its cooperation with China should focus more on tourism and services industries," Gu said, adding that the country might also increase energy exports to China.

Experts noted that the visits paid by Xi also point to the possibility for more joint exploration of the South China Sea.

"It shows China's determination to establish a friendly cooperation framework with its neighboring countries at a time when the US is exerting pressure, both politically and economically, on China," Gu said.
Newspaper headline: State visits set to boost ties


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