Former Philippine president Arroyo hails China, hits out at U.S. trade policies
By Darlene Basingan
MANILA, NNA – Former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who returned to politics after being cleared of corruption charges in 2016, hit out at U.S. trade policies, while praising China’s “openness” amid fears about delicate relations between Manila and Beijing.
House Speaker Arroyo, a pro-Beijing ally of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, told a meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia on Tuesday that she was pleased with China’s efforts to encourage free-trade and globalization, which she said had been the traditional role of the United States.
The Boao Forum is modelled on the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland.
“Whether President Trump’s actions in the matter are purely tactical and meant primarily to gain negotiating leverage is unclear. But in the face of the threat posed by a trade war, China’s Party Politburo correctly stated, ‘We have to enhance reform and open up,’” Arroyo, a board member of the Boao forum, told a delegation of about 300 mainland Chinese business people.
Former Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, Boao Forum Vice Chairman, acknowledged the slowdown in global growth and trade and called for cooperation among countries.
“Both global trade and economic growth are losing steam. The Europe-based multilateral trade system is under strike. Emerging markets and the developing are facing internal and external shocks,” he said in a speech. “Under these circumstances, tremendous efforts are needed to uphold multilateralism, promote globalization, and sustain an open world economy.”
The Asian Development Bank has downgraded its outlook for Asia this year over the continuing U.S.-China trade row, while the U.S will send a high-level delegation to Beijing next week for continued trade talks.
It’s the first time that the Philippines has hosted the Boao forum, aiming to encourage more Chinese investment in the country. The forum was held just ahead of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative forum. Duterte is among the 40 heads of state attending that meeting in Beijing from April 25 to 27.
Arroyo noted the need for efforts such as China’s initiative to provide infrastructure to emerging economies like the Philippines.
“International trade and investment relationships, such as those envisioned under the rules-based multilateral trading system… are like the software for the world’s trade and investments system,” she said.
“But we also need the hardware, and this is where the Belt and Road Initiative comes in to provide brick and mortar infrastructure without which international trade and investment cannot operate.”
Chinese investment in the Philippines has moderately increased in recent years since Duterte began his “pivot to China,” shifting away from a more U.S.-friendly policy in order to appease China.
However, two Chinese-funded projects have been questioned recently over fears of a debt-trap as the contracts allegedly have provisions that put Philippine territories at risk.
Government officials refuted the accusations, arguing the Philippines’ current debt exposure to China is just 0.66 percent of overall debt, compared to the 9-percent share in loans from Japan.
Former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo speaking to mostly Chinese businessmen during the Boao Forum in Manila on Tuesday.