NANNING, CHINA: The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said Chinese businessmen are thinking twice about investing in the Philippines because of its territorial dispute with China over the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea.)
“They [Chinese investors] are cautious. They are afraid that the bigger picture might affect them on the details,” Francis Chua, PCCI chairman, said.
He told Filipino and Chinese journalists that they are trying to allay fears by urging local businessmen not to mix business with politics.
“As far as we [Filipino businessmen] are concerned, we are trying to dissipate all those doubts and we’re hoping that people just concentrate doing business and forget about this politics,” Chua, who is attending the 10th China-Asean Expo in this city, said.
He called on Filipino businessmen to stay neutral because trading is about boosting the economies of the Philippines and China.
“Let’s not join the fray. Let’s leave politics to government officials, they know what to do. We traders should focus on business matters,” Chua said.
“I don’t believe anybody will come to the Philippines if there is no profit. At the end of the day, we believe that economic performance is something good for both countries,” Chua said.
He attended a roundtable discussion between officials of the Department of Trade and Industry and Chinese chief executive officers.
Chua said Filipino products should continue to be promoted in China and other Southeast Asian nations because there are Chinese traders who are not aware of these products.
Other countries had more booths than the Philippines in the exposition here. Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia had roomfuls of exhibits ranging from agribusiness to lifestyle.
The Philippines, despite being the country of honor, shared a room with Singapore, Cambodia and Brunei.
Meanwhile, China’s trade with Southeast Asia could more than double to $1 trillion by 2020, Premier Li Keqiang told regional leaders, downplaying simmering territorial disputes and stressing their “common destiny”.
Li called for an upgraded version of the free trade deal between the two sides and insisted that “disruptive factors” should not get in the way of regional cooperation, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Trade has grown sixfold over the past decade to $400 billion in 2012 between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Nations (Asean), it said.
But Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea—believed to sit atop vast deposits of oil and natural gas—even waters close to the coasts of its neighbors, and has been increasingly assertive over the issue in recent years.
Li downplayed the disputes while addressing the 10th China-Asean Expo and business and investment summit in the southern city of Nanning, reiterating Chinese calls for dialogue.
Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have often overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, and Taiwan also claims it all.
The dispute has rumbled on for decades, but Beijing’s actions to support its claim in recent years have raised concerns with its neighbors, particularly Hanoi and Manila.
After years of resistance China has agreed to meet Asean members later this month in the eastern city of Suzhou to discuss a “code of conduct” for the waters, meant as an upgrade from a 2002 non-binding “declaration of conduct”.
Asean includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
WITH A REPORT FROM AFP