President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to remain a strong partner of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), saying multilateral ties are necessary amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) health crisis.
Duterte made this commitment in a taped message during the 17th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) & China-Asean Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) Opening last Friday.
“This important annual economic event is vital in strengthening multilateral ties between China and Asean member-states, especially now as we collectively face the challenges of economic recession and uncertainties due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in his speech.
He also expressed gratitude to China for its investments which have boosted global economic recovery hit by recession.
“We thank China for its substantial investments in trade, infrastructure, telecommunication and transportation that strengthened economic integration, productivity and financial stability in the region,” he said.
Duterte assured to continue joining efforts in promoting the mutual prosperity of the China-Asean economic community for the years ahead.
“Let us ensure a harmonious collaboration among our countries and achieve the goal of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) under the blueprint of the China-Asean Strategic Partnership Vision 2030,” he said.
The RCEP is a comprehensive trade and investment agreement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its five free trade agreement (FTA) partners —Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and South Korea concluded last Nov. 15 after eight years of negotiations.
According to the trade department, the RCEP covers one-third of the world’s population and one-third of global gross domestic product and export market.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier described the scope of RCEP as “more modern” and a “high quality FTA” as this include economic technical topics such as micro, small and medium enterprises, intellectual property, e-commerce, trade access, and other topics in trade in products and services, as well as investments.
China is one of the Philippines’ largest trading partners, largest export markets, and largest sources of imports.
The East Asian country also plays a crucial role in the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program by providing financing to a number of major infrastructure projects like bridges and railways. (PNA)