The Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries and China have agreed to reach the joint target of two-way trade of US$1 trillion, and $150 billion in investments by 2020 - Photo by ASEAN Secretary Office

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries and China have agreed to reach the joint target of two-way trade of US$1 trillion, and $150 billion in investments by 2020 at the 22nd China-ASEAN leaders’ meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday (11/03), to further strengthen the robust trade and economic relations between both sides.

In a final joint statement, both sides noted with satisfaction the increase in the total merchandise trade between ASEAN and China which, according to preliminary ASEAN data, reached $479.4 billion in 2018, accounting for 17.1 percent of ASEAN’s total merchandise trade.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows from China to ASEAN amounted to $10.2 billion in 2018, accounting for 6.6 percent of ASEAN’s total FDI. China maintained its position as ASEAN’s largest trading partner since 2009 and, in 2018, China was ASEAN’s third-largest external source of FDI among ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, compared to its previous position in 2017 where it was the fourth largest.

“We welcomed the progress of the ASEAN-China FTA (ACFTA) implementation including the entry into force of the Protocol to Amend the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Certain Agreements thereunder between ASEAN and China (ACFTA Upgrading Protocol) for all Parties and the ongoing discussions on the remaining elements of the Future Work Programme under the Protocol to improve ASEAN-China trade,” they said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said since China and ASEAN established dialogue relations, they have brought benefits to each other and the wider region, adding that China always supports ASEAN’s central role in East Asian cooperation.

Noting that the mounting downward pressure on the global economy brings new severe challenges, Li said China and ASEAN countries should jointly uphold multilateralism and free trade, withstand risks and realize common development.

The premier said China and ASEAN countries should stick to the principle of shared benefits and win-win outcomes, and speed up the work to upgrade economic and trade cooperation.

He called for an early conclusion of the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) so as to lay the foundation for East Asia’s economic integration, and the implementation of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area Upgrade Protocol to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.

“ASEAN Leaders welcomed China’s support for enhancing ASEAN Connectivity through the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 to strengthen physical, institutional, and people-to-people connectivity,” it said.

The leaders also welcomed the continuous effort to promote synergies between MPAC 2025 and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as part of the “Connecting the Connectivities” approach and looked forward to the implementation of such cooperation in an open, inclusive, transparent and mutually beneficial manner.

“We were pleased that ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations continued to be strong, stable and mutually-beneficial and that our Strategic Partnership remained dynamic as one of the key pillars of peace, stability, prosperity, and sustainability in our region,” the statement said.

Both sides welcomed the substantive progress made in the implementation of the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2016-2020).

They also looked forward to the development of a new Plan of Action (2021-2025) as a guiding document to further strengthen ASEAN-China cooperation in areas of mutual interest, bringing tangible benefits to our peoples, as well as contributing to the
promotion of peace, stability, prosperity, and sustainability in the region.

“We reaffirmed our strong support for multilateralism and regionalism, and for the rules-based international order based on the principles of international law, mutual interests, and mutual respect,” it said.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com