Vice-Premier Wang Yang arrived in Manila on March 16 to start a four-day official visit intended to improve pragmatic cooperation between China and the Philippines.
Wang will meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and also with the Philippine Cabinet’s economic management team for talks, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Wang attended the opening ceremony of the China-ASEAN Year of Tourism, reading a congratulatory message from Premier Li Keqiang, and he is expected to speak at the opening ceremony of the China-Philippines Economic and Trade Forum.
Wang’s visit came a day after Chinese companies signed agreements with their Philippine counterparts to purchase $1.7 billion worth of fruit and other products.
As many as 73 trade deals were signed in Manila on March 15, including for such Philippine goods as bananas, pineapples, coconut oil, fiber, lumber, copper cathode and nickel ore, China News Service reported.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said the agreements are “an effort to balance the trade” between the countries. They are the “advanced result” of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China in October.
The agreements are expected to be the first of many as China seeks to import more nonfood goods such as chemicals and related products.
China increased its imports of fruit such as mangoes and pineapples from the Philippines after Duterte’s visit to Beijing. In the past five months, bilateral trade has reached $100 million.
Duterte’s visit to China last year, which included the signing of a number of cooperation deals, led to the thawing of both diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries, which had once been soured by the South China Sea arbitration case.
Duterte, who has been taking a positive approach toward China since taking office in June, has said he plans to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in May.
Zhou Fangyin, a professor of China’s foreign policy at the Guangdong Institute for International Strategies, said the proper management of the South China Sea issue has helped lay a solid foundation for the two countries to develop bilateral trade.
Bilateral ties “encompass far more than the South China Sea issue”, and trade cooperation between the two countries will in turn help solve that issue, Zhou said.