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China-ASEAN relations set to strengthen and broaden

By Jing Shuiyu and Zhang Li in Nanjing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-12 07:21

China and ASEAN members are making continued efforts to promote the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and expect to achieve significant results by the end of this year, the Ministry of Commerce said on Monday.

This is part of the two sides' ongoing endeavors to further boost their ties, following a protocol signed in 2015 on upgrading the China-ASEAN free trade agreement. The protocol took effect on July 1, 2016.

Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said: "To further boost China-ASEAN cooperation is of great significance to regional economic integration, stability and development … and China is willing to work with all parties to this end."

Gao made the comments at a news briefing on the 14th China-ASEAN Expo, which opens on Tuesday in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The event will host a series of high-level dialogues, exhibitions and forums.

A number of high-level officials confirmed their attendance. Askar Mamin, Kazakhstan's first deputy prime minister, will participate in this year's event. It is the first time the expo will host leaders representing countries beyond the China-ASEAN region, according to Gao Feng.

Rakhymzhan Rakhimov, counselor at the Kazakh embassy in China, said Kazakhstan's participation could give new impetus to Sino-Kazakh relations, and its ties with ASEAN countries, and take the nations' mutual trust to a new level.

For the first time, the expo will host concurrent forums on maritime tourism, a space information corridor, biomass energy, finance and taxation, disaster prevention and reduction, humanitarian exchanges and startup businesses of women entrepreneurs.

China has been ASEAN countries' biggest trading partner for the past eight years. This year marks the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, and the China-ASEAN Year of Tourism Cooperation.

Official data show both bilateral trade and investment have been improving in recent years.

According to China's Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade amounted to $277 billion in the first seven months of this year, up 14.5 percent year-on-year.

The volume of two-way investment exceeded $185 billion in the past decade.

The main venue of the expo will cover a total area of 124,000 square meters.

A total of 6,600 booths will be set up, with 1,705 of them used by ASEAN members and other countries, occupying 32 percent of the total exhibition area. The figure is 10 percent higher than last year.

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