China-ASEAN trade cooperation vital for long-term peace

Growing economic and trade relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are crucial to securing long-term peace and shared prosperity in the region, said Cambodian officials, scholars and exporters.

ASEAN became China’s second-largest trading partner in the first half of 2019, overtaking the United States for the first time since 1997. China’s customs data showed that China’s trade with ASEAN rose 10.5 percent to nearly 2 trillion yuan (291 billion U.S. dollars) in the first half of this year, as China’s trade with the U.S. dropped 9 percent to 1.8 trillion yuan (262 billion U.S. dollars), agency reports.

Ministry of Commerce Under Secretary of State and Spokesman Seang Thay said China has been one of ASEAN’s most important trade and investment partners and vice versa thanks to geographic proximity and strategic partnership between the two sides.

“ASEAN and China have so far cooperated very well in economic and trade sectors,” he told Xinhua. “With joint efforts and high commitment made by the leaders of China and ASEAN, I believe that the two-way trade volume between the two sides will continue to increase in coming years.”

Multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements have significantly boosted China-ASEAN trade and investment relations, he said.

ASEAN, established in 1967, groups Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mynamar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The spokesman added that the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement, which is expected to be concluded by the end of this year, will become a new booster for the development of China-ASEAN economic and trade exchanges.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute, said China is the top trading partner of ASEAN and ASEAN is the second largest trading partner of China.

“The increasing economic interdependence between the two economies is the cornerstone of long-term peace and shared prosperity in the region,” he told Xinhua.

 “Against the backdrop of rising protectionism and unilateralism, China and ASEAN are compelled to deepening their economic integration and advancing inclusive, open, effective and rules-based multilateral system,” he said. Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said the steady growth of economic and trade ties between China and ASEAN was underpinned by strategic mutual trust and confidence between the two sides.

“China’s principle of adhering to mutual respect and treating each other as equals is the fundamental principle to continuously deepen the cooperative relationship between China and ASEAN,” he told Xinhua.

He said China is playing a very important role as the global economic stabilizer, and driving force to alleviate, reduce and ultimately eliminate the poverty in the region.