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Premier hopes for even better China-ASEAN relationship

By MO JINGXI in Phnom Penh | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-11-12 07:40
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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang poses for a group photo with leaders attending the 25th China-ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov 11, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Premier Li Keqiang on Friday called upon China and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to build consensus on development and cooperation and jointly overcome challenges to build a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future.

Li made the remark while attending the 25th China-ASEAN Leaders' Meeting in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, the first such face-to-face gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic first appeared.

China and ASEAN are comprehensive strategic partners sharing weal and woe, Li said, noting that Beijing regards the bloc as a priority in its neighborhood diplomacy and is willing to work with ASEAN to focus on cooperation and share opportunities.

The premier proposed the two sides take the opportunity of implementing an action plan on their comprehensive strategic partnership to promote the quality and effectiveness of pragmatic cooperation, strengthen growth drivers and tap potential for more cooperation.

He also called on China and ASEAN to take the opportunity of the official launch of negotiations on the 3.0 version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area to boost cooperation on trade and investment.

China has been ASEAN's top trading partner for 13 consecutive years. In the first seven months of this year, two-way trade volume reached $544.9 billion, with a year-on-year increase of 13.1 percent, said the Ministry of Commerce.

Over the past several years, China has put forward at China-ASEAN leaders' meetings more than 160 cooperative agreements, with more than 99.5 percent of them having been implemented.

As this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, Li said China welcomes issuing a joint statement commemorating the anniversary at the meeting.

China stands ready to work with all ASEAN countries to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, he said.

The premier also said that China supports the establishment of the ASEAN Community and supports the bloc's central status in East Asian cooperation.

Leaders of ASEAN member countries praised the vibrancy of the ASEAN-China partnership, saying that it has become an example of regional cooperation.

ASEAN spoke highly of China's continuous support for ASEAN centrality and expressed willingness to work with China to bring forward the ASEAN-China comprehensive strategic partnership.

Xie Zhujun, deputy head of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, said that the 3.0 version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area will create new growth opportunities for cooperation in such areas as digital economy, green economy and new infrastructure.

It will also lead to closer economic connections among regional countries and enable more pragmatic and efficient international cooperation, thus boosting global economic development, Xie told China News Service.

On Friday, Li also met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

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