BEIJING (MindaNews) – If relations between the Philippines and China have been shaky recently due to a territorial dispute concerning the Spratly Islands, it did not reflect in the flow of goods between the two nations as two-way trade posted a record breaking value of US$32billion last year, officials said.
“Economic cooperation is very vibrant and robust. Both side see the reason for strengthening it and continue the cooperation,” said Philippine consul Evangeline Ong Jimenez-Ducrocq.
Citing data from China’s General Administration of Customs, the Philippine Embassy here said the last year’s two-way trade has exceeded the 2007’s bilateral trade success, which hit 30-billion US dollars, the highest since the two nations formally signed an economic pact.
“Bilateral trade has jumped 35% from 2009 when total bilateral trade stood at US$20bn, at the height of the financial crisis, to US$27.764-billion in 2010. Trade grew by another 22% from 2010 to 2011 to US$32.254-billion,” the Embassy said in a statement at the weekend.
Buoyed by its strong export in electronics, the Philippines continued to register a trade surplus with China, the statement added.
China has remained the Philippines’ third largest trading partner.
The statement did not give specific details of the two-way trade, but earlier figures released by the Philippine Embassy showed that Chinese products that landed in the Philippines jumped by 50% or $11.4 billion, while the Philippines has been steadily increasing its exports to China by 21% or $14.6 billion in the 10-month period of 2011.
During his visit here last year, Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, noted the imbalance of trade between the two countries, saying that Filipinos are investing more in China.
In 2010, Philippine investments in China amounted to $116 million, compared to China’s $86 million, official record shows.
Embassy Charge d’ Affaires Alex G. Chua has earlier said that free trade agreement between nations of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which the Philippines is part of, and China also helped in boosting the trade growth.
Under the trade accord, the average tariff on goods from ASEAN countries to China is reduced to 0.1 percent from 9.8 percent.
“As party to the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, the Philippines has further opportunities for trade in agriculture, minerals, industrial products, and high-quality/design-intensive consumer goods,” the Embassy statement said.
The Philippines and China are eyeing to double their bilateral trade to $60 billion in 2016, which many saw as an indicator that leaders of the two nations still prioritize economic cooperation amid the ruckus in the West Philippine Sea.
Relationship between the two countries has been periodically tested following the territorial dispute in the mineral-rich Spratly Islands, which are also being claimed in part by Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia are also members of the ASEAN. Taiwan, although seeking international recognition as an independent nation, is being viewed by China as a renegade province.
Weeks ago, the Philippines again accused China of intruding into its territory, a charge that Beijing denied. (Darwin Wally T. Wee/MindaNews)