NANNING - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was meeting Monday with Southeast Asian
leaders in the south China city of Nanning for a summit marking the 15
anniversary of the China-ASEAN dialogue relations.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo inspects
the Chinese guard of honor as she arrives to attend the Commemorative
Summit marking the 15th Anniversary of the China-ASEAN, Association of
Southeast Asian Nations in Nanning, southern China Sunday Oct. 29, 2006.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will hold bilateral meetings with the leaders
respectively on the sidelines of the summit, which aims at summing up
their bilateral friendship relations and drawing up future development
course of China-ASEAN relations. [AP]
The talks were expected to focus both on progress toward free trade and
efforts to keep peace in the region.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar,
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - countries ranging from some of
the most affluent to some of the poorest.
Two-way trade between China and ASEAN, already expanding at a rate of nearly
40 percent a year, is expected to surge to US$200 billion a year by 2010, when
the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area is due to be established.
Last year, China-ASEAN trade hit US$130.4 billion, according to Chinese
Preliminary plans for the free trade area were set in 2002. The FTA will
create a regional market of some 1.7 billion consumers and economic activity
totaling more than US$2 trillion.
Negotiations are still continuing on loosening trade restrictions for
China's neighbors see obvious advantages in gaining access to China's massive
market of 1.3 billion people, according to Ruan Zongze, vice president of the
China Institute of International Studies.
However, ties are still dogged by territorial disputes and other conflicts,
China fought a war with neighboring Vietnam in the late 1970s and has
periodically sparred with rival governments over claims to oil and fish-abundant
islands in the South China Sea.
"The two sides, therefore, should promote mutual trust," Ruan said.
The summit also marks the opening of an expo promoting regional trade and
investment - an annual event held in Nanning, a city of 6.5 million that is the
capital of Guangxi, which borders Vietnam.
Nanning, once a sleepy sugar-trade center, has prospered as China's ties with
Vietnam and other neighbors have expanded. The city's skyline is studded with
construction cranes, and a brand new satellite city complete with a Wal-Mart
Super Center stands near the expo site.