China’s Xi to skip ASEAN summit in PH, says embassy

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Reuters file photo)

MANILA — The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines on Thursday confirmed that President Xi Jinping will not be attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings in November and will instead be represented by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

This was stated when Embassy Counselor Ethan Sun was asked if there would be a bilateral meeting with President Xi and President Rodrigo Duterte during the event.

“No, because President Xi won’t be here for the ASEAN Summit. President Xi would be in Danang, Vietnam for APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation),” he explained.

“The same with Russia, President (Vladimir) Putin will be in APEC, their prime minister will be here, for China it’s the same,” he said on the sidelines of the China-Philippines Dialogue 2017 in Makati City.

In his keynote speech, Sun assured that the two countries are enjoying growing political mutual trust and frequent exchange of high-level visits.

“In about two weeks, we might be expecting Premier Li Keqiang of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China to pay an official visit to the Philippines, first of this kind by a Chinese Premier in 10 years,” he mentioned.

Ambassador Marciano Paynor earlier announced that 21 heads of state and government, including United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will participate in the ASEAN Summit. On the Special Gala Celebration of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, United States President Donald Trump was confirmed to attend.

‘Entering a new era’

While President Xi won’t be visiting Manila yet during the summit, Sun said the two nations continue to pursue an improved bilateral relations as it enters a “new era” of cooperation in various fields.

In a short span of one year, he said China and the Philippines already reaped fruits.

“China is now the largest trading partner, largest import market and fourth largest export destination of the Philippines,” he said.

Citing China’s statistics, he added the bilateral trade volume between the two hit USD28 billion in the first seven months of 2017, representing a 7.6 percent year-on-year increase.

Furthermore, China’s Foreign Direct Investment to the Philippines in the first seven months of 2017 registered USD20 million.

“I am pretty sure that more will come in the following years,” he added.

From January to July 2017, the embassy counselor said around 550,000 Chinese tourists already visited the Philippines as “China stands out as the second largest tourist source country” to the Philippines.

Sun is optimistic that as the two states forge stronger ties, fulfilling the target of 1 million Chinese tourist arrivals in the Philippines by the end of this year won’t be far-fetched.