Thailand has pledged to help address the trade imbalance with the Philippines by encouraging Thai companies to buy more Filipino products, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Wednesday.
At a press conference in Bangkok, Lopez said Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has assured President Rodrigo Duterte of his government’s commitment to “balance” the trade gap during a meeting late Tuesday.
“Right now, Thailand … has a trade surplus [with us]. In other words, mas malaki po ang export nila sa atin kaysa export natin sa kanila [the value of their export is higher than our export to them],” Lopez told reporters.
“What they will try to do is balance that in terms of … I guess, encouraging many of their companies here to buy Philippine products so we can also increase our exports to Thailand,” he added.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Thailand was the Philippines’ fourth largest source of imports, accounting for $579.84 million of the total import bill in December last year.
Exports to Thailand, in turn, amounted to $170.91 million last December, resulting in a trade deficit of $408.93 million, official data showed.
Lopez said the two leaders agreed during their bilateral meeting to work together to expand two-way trade and investments between the two countries.
“It takes time to narrow the gap but we’ll work toward improving our products so they will be marketable,” he said.
Lopez also said he and other members of the Philippine delegation held an investment forum in Bangkok on Wednesday afternoon to attract more Thai firms to invest in the country.
“[We’d like to] encourage them to invest in the Philippines and ride on the robust economic growth that we are having. We are doing a lot of reforms in the country so that we can encourage more investments,” he said.
The Philippines and Thailand on Monday signed three bilateral agreements, implementing arrangements on specific areas of cooperation in science and technology, tourism and agriculture.
In a joint statement with the Thai prime minister following their bilateral meeting, Duterte reaffirmed the “long-standing friendship” between the two countries, saying he hoped that his administration’s thrust will attract more investments from Thailand.
“Economic reforms are being instituted in the Philippines. With our emphasis on combating corruption, eradicating criminality, and dismantling the illegal drug trade apparatus, we are hopeful of more investments coming in from Thailand,” Duterte said.
As of 2016, trade between the two countries was valued at $9 billion. The two leaders believe this figure can be exceeded with strengthened cooperation.
The Philippines and Thailand, countries that both rely on the agricultural sector, are expected to exchange “best practices” in irrigation, livestock and fisheries, and soil and water conservation after Duterte’s visit.
“We have yet to reach the limit of our potentials. That is why we also recognize the importance of cooperation in agriculture…our agricultural sector should drive national growth,” Duterte said.
Duterte visited Myanmar on Sunday, before he flew to Thailand on Monday.