MANILA - China on Wednesday signed deals committing it to buy $1.7 billion worth of fruits and other agricultural products from the Philippines, the latest in a series of agreements in an era of cordial ties under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Zhao Jianhua, China's ambassador to the Philippines, said purchases of Philippine products by China could further increase as Beijing seeks to balance trade with Manila. China has been enjoying a trade surplus with the Southeast Asian nation.
"The Chinese market is wide open for the Filipino products and the demand is insatiable," he said. "So produce more and export more to China."
Duterte said during his visit to Beijing in October he had realigned with China, paving the way for what he called a commercial alliance as relations with longtime ally Washington soured.
China has increased its imports of Philippine mangoes and pineapples following Duterte's visit and was also looking to buy local chemical and mineral products, Zhao said.
"This is the effort by the Chinese side to carry out what we have promised, to promote bilateral relations, particularly to balance our trade," he said.
China has also committed to finance at least three infrastructure projects in the Philippines worth $3.4 billion, two of which could be rolled out in the first half of this year, trade officials from both countries said last week.
The latest deals with China come a day before Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang arrives to meet Duterte, the most senior leader from Beijing to visit Manila.
Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said last week Manila and Beijing were due to sign a six-year development program for economic and trade cooperation this month.