MANILA-- A visiting high-level Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wang Yang has underscored the crucial role that the Philippines will play in the proposed China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.
In his meeting with Duterte Cabinet officials led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III in Davao City, Vice Premier Wang also expressed China's support for the Philippines' chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is commemorating its 50th anniversary this year.
According to the Department of Finance (DOF), Vice Minister Wang emphasized during that meeting last week in Davao City that China considers the ASEAN as a "diplomatic priority" and that the Philippines, as chair of the ASEAN this year, will "make a big contribution in the regional cooperation."
"Secretary Dominguez responded that together with China, the ASEAN can lead growth in the regional economic front that is not only a rapid one but inclusive to all members of society," the DOF said.
In that meeting, Dominguez also shared the Duterte administration's optimism on the early conclusion of the talks on the China-led RCEP.
"We look forward to continue the discussions on the promotion of free trade partnership via the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership where China is also taking the lead. We are very much optimistic for its early conclusion which would help us further diversify our export markets," Dominguez said at the meeting.
Vice Premier Wang cited "the Philippines' irreplaceable role in the discussions of RCEP and highlighted that 'ASEAN centrality' will be crucial in the conclusion of the agreement," the DOF said.
According to the ASEAN website, the RCEP negotiations were launched by leaders from the 10 ASEAN member-states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam) and six ASEAN free trade partners (Australia, People's Republic of China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand) during the 21st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2012.
Its membership of 16 Asian countries account for almost half of the world's population, almost 30 percent of global GDP and over a quarter of world exports.
It covers trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights, competition policy, and dispute settlement, among other issues. It does not cover labor, environment and state-owned enterprises.
Dominguez said earlier the Duterte administration's move towards greater integration with other Asian economies would lead to substantial investment inflows this year, as well as rapid tourism growth and robust exports that would benefit not only big businesses but micro and small enterprises as well.
He pointed out that "the stronger linkages we now forge with our development partners and regional neighbors will provide new drivers for the growth of our domestic economy."
According to Dominguez, the latest round of high-level dialogues between the Philippines and China has paved the way to "a decisively progressive and productive" cooperation between the two countries.
Vice Premier Wang had met with President Duterte in Davao City and separately discussed with Dominguez and other Cabinet officials the progress of the cooperation between the two countries on implementing the Philippines' large-scale infrastructure projects through Chinese grants and concessional loans.
Dominguez and China Commerce Vice Minister Fu Ziying, who is also China's International Trade Representative, also formalized in Davao City an agreement on the conduct of preliminary feasibility studies for the proposed Davao City Expressway and the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges Project through an exchange of letters after last Friday's meeting between Philippine and Chinese officials at the Marco Polo Davao Hotel.
Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Minister Fu also signed the Six-Year Development Program (SYDP) that "aims to steer and promote the stable and orderly development of economic cooperation between the two countries."
The SYDP also aims to "enlarge the scope and enhance the level of cooperation between, and drive sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development in, the two countries," according to the DOF.
Besides Vice Premier Wang, also at the Davao meeting were, among others, Minister Fu Ziying, China International Trade Representative and Vice Minister of the Ministry of Commerce; Ambassador Zhao Jianhua of the Embassy of China in Manila; Deputy Secretary General Jiang Zelin of the State Council; Vice Minister Liu Zhenmin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Vice Minister Wang Xiaotao of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Secretaries Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management, Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority, Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Development, and Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation; and Vince Dizon, president and CEO of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.
Source: Philippines Information Agency