(Adds quotes, background)
BEIJING Oct 18 China is looking to expand trade
with the Philippines during President Rodrigo Duterte's visit
this week, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce said on
Tuesday, as the two sides seek new commercial ties to soothe
years of hostility.
Duterte will travel with at least 200 business leaders
during his four-day trip beginning on Tuesday, which could
signal a transformation in a relationship dogged by rival
territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The move to engage China, just a few months after an
arbitral ruling in the disputed waters sparked fears in the
region of a backlash by Beijing, marks a striking reversal in
Philippine foreign policy since Duterte took office on June 30.
China has welcomed the shift in tone, which has put Manila's
relations with Washington under strain.
Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said China's
tropical fruit imports from the Philippines was one area of
trade the two sides would look to expand during the visit.
China will strengthen trade links with the Philippines,
encourage businesses to invest there, strengthen bilateral
infrastructure construction and human resources training, Shen
told a regular news briefing.
"China looks forward to Philippine President Duterte's
visit, further consolidating and strengthening bilateral trade
relations, and continuously elevating the scope of bilateral
cooperation to bring more practical benefits to both peoples and
countries," Shen said.
Duterte has said his trip to China represents a turning
point in bilateral ties, but has acknowledged some public
concern about his rapid rapprochement moves.
On Sunday, he said he would raise the controversial South
China Sea ruling with China's leaders and vowed not to surrender
any sovereignty or deviate from the July award by the tribunal
in the Hague that dealt a blow to China's extensive maritime
claims in the region.
Beijing has refused to recognise the case and has chided any
country telling it to abide by the ruling.
China's official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary
that the verdict had no place in negotiations, but that years of
"bad blood" was giving way to "good faith".
"Should he demonstrate his good faith, the trip will present
a long overdue opportunity for the two nations, which enjoy
longstanding friendship, to heal the wounds of the past few
years and steer their relationship back to the right course,"
(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Michael Martina; Editing by Kim