The cooperative relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have experienced smooth development, especially in the fields of politics, trade, and investment, in recent years.
"The multifaceted cooperation between China and ASEAN has been the best over the past 15 years," Associate Professor Doctor Do Tien Sam at Vietnam's Institute for Chinese Studies told Xinhua recently.
China and ASEAN have frequently maintained exchanges of high-level visits to promote their friendly and cooperative ties, and intensified dialogues on policies to enhance their mutual understanding and trust.
In 2007 alone, Chinese leaders paid some visits to ASEAN countries, including the trip to Singapore by Premier Wen Jiabao in November, and welcomed some of their counterparts from ASEAN member countries, including Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet in May and Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh in August.
Besides, annual China-ASEAN summits have opened opportunities for the two sides to discuss measures to beef up their cooperation, especially in the fields of politics, economy and trade, and exchange views on other issues of common concern.
The two sides have continued consultations on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and upheld peace and stability in the sea.
The enhanced political trust has laid foundation for the cooperation between China and ASEAN in economy, trade and other fields, Sam said, noting that the construction of the China-ASEAN free trade area (CAFTA) is the clearest manifestation of their political and economic ties because this is the political determinations of leaders of both sides.
Now, China and the 10 ASEAN members, including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, are speeding up tariff reduction, a move to facilitate the CAFTA's establishment.
The average tariff imposed by China on imported ASEAN goods is expected to drop to 2.4 percent in 2009 from current 5.8 percent. Under the CAFTA, China and the older ASEAN members -- Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand -- will impose zero tariffs on most goods in 2010, and Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will follow suit in 2015.
"China has become one of ASEAN's leading trade partners and foreign investors. The CAFTA will bring about great opportunities to both sides," Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said at the 4th China-ASEAN Trade Fair (CAEXPO) in October.
China-ASEAN trade fairs have been organized annually in China since 2004, contributing to fostering the bilateral trade and investment cooperation. The two sides are actively negotiating for an investment agreement, facilitating their cooperation in the field.
Trade between China and ASEAN is expected to exceed US$200 billion in 2008, up from estimated US$190 billion in 2007 and US$160.8 billion in 2006. China and ASEAN are now each other's fourth largest trade partners.
Chinese investment in ASEAN rose rapidly to nearly US$1.1 billion by the end of 2005 from US$150 million in late 1991. By the end of 2005, ASEAN had total investment of US$38.5 billion in China.
Together with politics, trade and investment, China and ASEAN have closely joined hands in such other fields as transport, agriculture, science, technology, education, culture, human resource development, environmental protection, and disease prevention.
The two sides have signed the China-ASEAN Maritime Transport Agreement, and adopted the China-ASEAN Aviation Cooperation Framework.
Besides, they have enhanced their cooperation in international and regional forums such as the ASEAN+3 summits (ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea), East Asia summits, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), contributing to peace, stability and development in Asia and the world.
With their current fine cooperation and unceasing efforts in boosting the ties, the prospect of China-ASEAN relations in the coming time is rosy, Sam said.