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Officials to promote China-South Asia ties

By Hu Yongqi in Kunming and Zhao Yanrong in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-06 08:01

Officials to promote China-South Asia ties

Senior officials vowed on Wednesday to promote the relationship between China and South Asian countries at a preparatory meeting for the first China-South Asia Expo, which begins on Thursday.

China will extend dialogues and exchanges with South Asian countries to play a constructive role in promoting economic and social development in the region, Vice-Premier Ma Kai said during a meeting with senior officials from the region.

Ahmed Saleem, secretary-general of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, said the organization and its eight member states are committed to promoting the relationship between SAARC and China, an observing country for the organization.

Parmanand Jha, vice-president of Nepal, said the Nepalese government will further expand exchanges and cooperation with China in various areas, especially in trade, agricultural development and tourism.

Ma said both sides should use complementary advantages to realize a win-win business.

The China-South Asia Expo was upgraded from the Kunming Import and Export Fair to a national exhibition event, mostly catering to South Asian countries. As part of the Expo, Vice-Premier Ma will meet top leaders from South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka on Thursday.

"South Asia is getting more important for China nowadays," said Lou Chunhao, a professor of South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Premier Li Keqiang traveled to India and Pakistan last month on his first official visit since assuming office, and international events such as the expo provide a better platform to seek further cooperation between China and South Asia.

Yunnan, a gateway

Lou said the expo is important for China and South Asia to develop much stronger economic ties. "Yunnan is considered China's gateway to South Asian market, and the provincial government has been working for years to enhance economic ties with the region. The expo not only focuses on trade and investment, but also includes some forums and talks between senior government officials and think tanks. It is a higher level dialogue between the two sides," Lou added.

"In South Asia, India is an emerging power and a very active player in many multilateral international mechanisms, as well as a key neighbor country for China. We can see that the Chinese government has attached more importance to South Asia than before in international relations," he said.

Sun Shihai, an expert on Indian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the expo is a great way to develop sustainable trade between China and South Asia.

"The trade between China and South Asia is seriously imbalanced, and Chinese investment toward the region is not that large yet. Therefore, the China-South Asia Expo can be a good platform to explore the complementary advantages of both economies, in order to reach a balanced trade relationship in the future," Sun said.

For example, India has great interest in developing infrastructure, while China is good at those projects. Bangladesh has relatively cheap labor for manufacturing industries, while China is upgrading its industrial chain and looking to outsourcing more low-end manufacturing business, Sun added.

"India has advanced service industries. China can import more services from India, such as software development and its banking system, to improve our service ability," he added.

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Li Yingqing contributed to this story.

(China Daily 06/06/2013 page11)

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