China to create a more mutually beneficial, open and inclusive bilateral relationship

The scope and depth of business ties between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be further enriched over the next decade, supported by open markets, diversified multilateral investment and digital technology-led pathways, said government officials and business leaders.

They made the remarks after President Xi Jinping said China will work with ASEAN to advance all-around cooperation under the guidance of the Strategic Partnership Vision 2030, in a speech delivered via video link at the opening of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit on Friday.

The blueprint, charting a new course for the further development of their mutually beneficial cooperation, has been hailed as a milestone in relations between the two sides.

The enhanced ties, combined with the recent signing of the world’s biggest trade deal-the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership-will help both parties firmly support the multilateral trading system, keep the market open, build strong regional industrial and supply chains, and promote regional economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, said Li Chenggang, assistant minister of commerce.

China will actively implement the future work plan for the upgraded protocol of the China-ASEAN free trade area, explore the realization of a higher level of market access based on the RCEP pact, and create a more mutually beneficial, open and inclusive bilateral economic and trade relationship, he said.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit agreed, saying that Thailand hopes that ASEAN and China can reach agreement on the rest of the future work plan covered by the upgraded protocol of the China-ASEAN free trade area, including free trade of goods, and discussion on investment freedom and protection.

China has been Thailand’s largest trading partner for eight consecutive years, he said. Bilateral trade and economic growth between Thailand and China in the past 10 years have benefited from the China-ASEAN free trade area, which covers trade in goods and investment.

Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Malaysia’s senior minister for economy and minister of international trade and industry, said that consumers’ spending patterns have undergone structural changes due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic this year. The change can be seen from the growing demand for essential goods and surging digital transactions. Both online and offline platforms have further reinforced inter-regional trade.

As ASEAN has undergone a rapid digital economic transformation, he said, cooperation with China will help ASEAN choose a more advanced growth path, especially in the areas of digital economy and high-end manufacturing.

ASEAN and Chinese companies signed agreements on 86 investment cooperation projects on Friday in areas including infrastructure, energy, retail and logistics, at the 17th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, with a total investment of 263.87 billion yuan ($40.13 billion), jumping 43.6 percent on a yearly basis, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Zhang Jianping, director-general of the Beijing-based China Center for Regional Economic Cooperation, said the RCEP will become a fundamental cooperation frame and platform that enables economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN to evolve to new heights on the basis of achievements made in the past decades. The regional market is expected to be fully integrated in all economic and trade sectors, such as trade, investment and finance.

Key partners

“China and ASEAN are complementary trading partners, considering China has a full range of industry sectors, from resource and labor-intensive industries to capital and technology-intensive ones, while different ASEAN countries have advantages in quite different industries,” he added.

Forest Cao, general manager of the Shanghai branch of Pacific International Lines, a large Singaporean shipping and logistics services provider, said he sees significant future development potential in goods and services trade between China and ASEAN.

Apart from meeting exporters’ demand for ocean shipping between China and ASEAN member economies, the company plans to add investment in warehouses and freight train facilities in Qinzhou, Guangxi, and in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, over the next five years, Cao said.

Zhang Li in Nanning contributed to this story.

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