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Li: Helping ASEAN is helping China

By Li Yang | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-05 07:45

Optimism marks 10th anniversary of strategic ties

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed to double trade and investment between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by 2020 during the 10th China-ASEAN Expo underway in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership and the expo.

The establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area is an important milestone in the partnership.

The two sides established the giant free trade zone in 2010 incorporating 1.8 billion people, one-quarter of the world's population.

The FTA accelerated liberalization of trade and investment as well as the scale of cooperation over the past two years.

"The free trade area is the world's largest in population and the largest between developing countries," said local officials. "The FTA has greatly boosted bilateral trade ties."

 Li: Helping ASEAN is helping China

Premier Li Keqiang called for deep cooperation with ASEAN in sectors including water transport, infrastructure and energy.

In 2012, China was the largest trade partner for ASEAN. The region was the third-largest for China.

The past decade proves that China and ASEAN are natural cooperative partners and share common goals in the fast changing world, said officials. Bilateral trade in 2012 was five times the level of 2003.

The major common task is to develop economies and improve the livelihood of people living in the enormous market.

"Since China and ASEAN had the ability to build a golden decade of cooperation in the past decade, they will be capable of building the next 10 years into a diamond decade," Li said in his speech to the expo on Sept 3.

Trade is expected to reach $1 trillion in 2020, compared with $400 billion last year.

Two-way investment will total about $150 billion from 2013 to 2020.

China's total outbound investment in ASEAN member countries hit nearly $30 billion by June. Investment from ASEAN in China totaled $80 billion.

Agreements inked

At the opening ceremony of the ongoing expo, China and ASEAN inked economic agreements covering ports, technology transfers and an entrepreneur association.

With volatility in emerging markets after the US Federal Reserve scaled back its massive bond-buying program, cooperation with China is of great importance to Southeast Asian countries.

Panya Boonbandanrit, deputy secretary-general of the Thai Tapioca Trade Association, said China-ASEAN trade is "still set to enjoy steady growth since bilateral trade practices have matured in the past decade".

Ty Channa, deputy director of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, said he is"highly optimistic about the goal of achieving $1 trillion in bilateral trade because our connection is stronger than ever after a 10-year strategic partnership".

"I think cooperation on the agricultural front will be essential to boost our local economy," said Channa. China and ASEAN have great potential to renew and expand their agreements in key fields such as high technology transfers, inter-connectivity and finance.

Authorities from both sides said new joint efforts should be made to lower taxes, reduce non-tax barriers, launch a new round of talks on cooperation of service sectors and create more convenience in bilateral trade and investment.

According to Premier Li, China is keen to sign "long-term agreements on agricultural trade" with ASEAN and the nation will "actively expand imports of commodities that enjoy competitiveness in the Chinese market" from the region.

Dato Norhalim Yunus, chief executive officer of government-run venture capital firm Malaysian Technology Development Corp, said the "upgraded version" of the partnership suggests China-ASEAN trade is more likely to go beyond brick-and-mortar businesses and move to high-end sectors including high-tech.

Li said such "disturbing factors" as South China Sea disputes between China and some Southeast Asian countries are "not the mainstream" of bilateral ties.

"Helping ASEAN means helping China," he said.

Ding Qingfen contributed to this story.

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