JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – China is ready to work with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to promote the early completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement (FTA) scheme for the 10 members, build the East Asian economic community, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation to inject positive energy into the world economy, said Premier Li Keqiang on Monday (07/05).
Li made the remarks while addressing a celebration ceremony of the 15th anniversary of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership in Jakarta. He said, China has always put ASEAN as a priority for its foreign policy with neighboring countries
Secretary-General of ASEAN Lim Jock Hoi said China has always been an important partner of ASEAN. ASEAN is willing to work with China to strengthen economic and trade cooperation, especially in such areas of innovation and digital economy, so as to achieve common prosperity and mutual benefit, said Lim.
At the 32nd ASEAN Summit and related meetings held in Singapore in late April, leaders of ASEAN countries agreed to work toward an early conclusion this year of RCEP, a FTA scheme of the 10 ASEAN member states and its FTA partners, namely China, Australia, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand. In his speech, the Premier also called for substantive breakthroughs made in the negotiations on the RCEP.
China and ASEAN countries are all beneficiaries of free trade, Premier Li said, adding that it is in line with their common interest to safeguard multilateralism and the international trading system.
He said the importance of cooperation between China and ASEAN has gone beyond the bilateral scope and has increasingly become the support and engine for maintaining regional peace and stability as well as promoting regional common prosperity.
He said China supports the establishment of the ASEAN community, supports ASEAN’s central position in regional cooperation and supports it to play a bigger role in building an open and inclusive regional framework. Li added China’s development would bring new and greater opportunities to all countries in the world including ASEAN.
ASEAN is willing to work with China to strengthen economic and trade cooperation, especially in such areas of innovation and digital economy, so as to achieve common prosperity and mutual benefit, said Lim.
Congratulating China on its tremendous achievements in reform and opening-up, Lim said he appreciated China’s commitment to an open and rules-based multilateral trade system.
He believed that China’s broad prospects for development will not only benefit the Chinese people but will also improve the well-being of all people in the region.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, in 2017 total bilateral trade volume between China and ASEAN countries hit a record high worth of US$514.8 billion, or up 13.8 percent year on year (YoY), the fastest growth pace between China and any of its major trading partners.
China’s exports to ASEAN countries reached $279.1 billion in 2017, climbed 9 percent YoY, while imports grew 20 percent YoY to stand at $235.7 billion. The country registered a trade surplus of $43.4 billion with ASEAN countries, narrowing by 27.4 percent from 2016.
Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand were China’s top trading partners in the region last year. Vietnam was China’s biggest export destination while China imported more goods from Malaysia than other ASEAN countries.