Philippines President Cancels China-ASEAN Trade Fair Visit

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Pressure from Beijing over United Nations legal action causes rift amid “concerns for safety” at Nanning Expo

Sept. 3 – The Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino has cancelled a visit to the China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning after Chinese officials demanded he first withdraw a legal complaint over the South China Sea the Philippines has lodged with the United Nations. Aquino refused and has sent a delegation in his place instead.

China has subsequently stated that Aquino’s visit to Nanning was cancelled over fears for his safety in the face of planned “Chinese public and media support for the Chinese government” in Nanning over the South China Sea territorial issues.

The Philippines is this year’s “Country of Honor” at the fair, which takes place every year to highlight trade exchanges between China and ASEAN nations. The president of each Country of Honor typically provides a keynote speech, and this is the first time this has been shelved. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will instead step into Aquino’s shoes.

“China has a history of politicizing trade and it can get in the way of commercial development,” comments Chris Devonshire-Ellis, founding partner of Dezan Shira & Associates. “The Philippines has the sovereign right to take disputes to the United Nations and many will feel outraged that the country’s president was placed under such pressure to submit to Chinese political demands. Quite how this will affect the annual Nanning Expo remains to be seen, but this now means the event has become about political posturing rather than developing trade and commercial ties and this corruption of the fair’s original purpose is a great shame.”