China-ASEAN Trade and Economic Cooperation Strengthened

At a recent meeting with ASEAN nations held in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, China’s Minister of Commerce Chen Deming emphasized the need to improve and expand trading and economic cooperation between the Peoples’ Republic of China and ASEAN. This consultation conference, which marked the 10th such meeting between ASEAN Economic Ministers and China’s Ministry of Commerce, provided a platform for reviewing the results of twenty years of cooperation between the parties present, as well as to make plans for the future.

Minister Chen noted that relationships between the parties had been particularly fruitful since the China-ASEAN free trade area (CAFTA) came into operation at the beginning of 2010, reflecting on mutually beneficial achievements in economic cooperation, investment opportunities and bilateral trade. The measurable value of trade has increased by up to 37 times from US$8 billion in 1991, to US$292.8 billion in 2010. The first two quarters of 2011 have seen an increase of 25 percent measured year on year, with trade value at US$171.1 billion thus far.

At this stage China is the largest trading partner of the ASEAN nations, as well as being the second largest export market. China’s US$13 billion foreign direct investment in ASEAN nations reveals that they represent an important investment destination for Chinese enterprises. Moreover, China has significant investments in ASEAN national infrastructure.

Also on the agenda for discussion were steps to be taken to further improve trading and economic cooperation, with a view to protecting stability and promoting the development of regional economy – particularly in light of the current volatility of international financial markets. Proposed follow up meetings to measure progress and make further plans, include the China-ASEAN summit hosted by Bali in November, a post-CAFTA era workshop in Guizhou, and the 8th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning in October.

ASEAN – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – is an economic and geo-political organization with ten member countries located in the Southeast Asia region. Formed in August 1967 by five countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore – ASEAN currently has ten member nations, being the five founding members plus Burma, Cambodia, Brunei, Laos and Vietnam.