Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN grew by 38 per cent in the first six months of 2021, with two-way investments exceeding USD$310 billion by the end of June, according to China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO). 

This was shared during a press conference held by the SCIO recently, regarding China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation, the 18th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) and the 18th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS). 

China’s Assistant Minister of Commerce, Ren Hongbin said that ASEAN remains a priority of China’s diplomacy and the 10-member association has become a major partner for promoting the  Belt and Road cooperation.

China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation soars

Last year, bilateral trade between China and ASEAN reached USD$685 billion, which cemented ASEAN as China’s top trading partner for the first time, while China has remained one of ASEAN’s largest trading partners for 12 consecutive years. 

“The trade figure has grown by 85 times over the past three decades and in the first six months of this year, it rose by 38 per cent compared to the same period of last year,” the SCIO added in a statement. 

Since the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations three decades ago, the two sides have achieved bounteous outcomes not only in economic and trade cooperation, but also cooperation in infrastructure as by the end of June, turnover of China-contracted projects in ASEAN have approached USD$350 billion.

This culminates overall in a closer economic integration within the region “more policy dividends are being unlocked for the business communities” especially with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement being signed in November 2020 and the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and its upgrading protocol implemented on schedule. 

“Within the CAFTA, more than 90 percent of the goods for bilateral trade enjoy zero tariffs,” the statement read, adding that even sub-regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Lancang-Mekong cooperation and China-BIMP-EAGA have maintained steady development. 

CAEXPO & CABIS at the forefront of China-ASEAN cooperation

During the press conference, Vice Governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Liu Hongwu highlighted how the CAEXPO and CABIS have become important platforms in advancing China-ASEAN cooperation, throughout the events’ 18 years of establishment. 

He explained how both events have attracted 97 Chinese and international state leaders with more than 3,400 ministerial officials in attendance, thus consolidating high-end dialogues that nonetheless have effectively promoted the in-depth development of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership. 

“Altogether 926,000 exhibitors and trade visitors have participated in the two events, and a series of breakthroughs have been made in trade in goods, trade in services and international industrial capacity cooperation,” the SCIO shared. 

“All these are conducive to shaping an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN FTA,” they added. 

Furthermore, the two events have also played an important role in the expansion of the Nanning Channel as 282 high-level forums and conferences have been held on the sidelines of the two events, covering more than 40 areas for bilateral cooperation. 

They have also advanced a number of major mechanisms and projects such as the new international land-sea trade corridor and the China (Guangxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

18th CAEXPO & CABIS 2021, what to expect

The 18th CAEXPO and CABIS will commence on 10th September 2021, holding the theme “Sharing the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, Jointly Building the China-ASEAN Community with a Shared Future”. 

Laos remains the country of honor for the 18th CAEXPO with Pakistan as the special partner country.

With this year marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue relations between China and ASEAN and the China-ASEAN Year of Sustainable Development Cooperation, the events will be celebrating the significant milestone through a commemorative event. 

“Chinese and international state leaders will attend the opening ceremony, making it a high-profile occasion as usual,” the SCIO added. 

“Participating countries will release their economic policies and development plans, where enterprises and businesses could obtain the latest policy and market intelligence they are expecting for,” they continued. 

This year’s edition of the events will also focus on new areas of cooperation with more prominence given to exhibitions on the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor. 

This endeavors to make Guangxi a gateway for financial opening up with ASEAN and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area cooperation.

Meanwhile, business promotional events will take place in parallel with each other including the China-ASEAN Multi-model Transportation Alliance Forum and the 2nd Beibu Gulf International Gateway Ports Forum. 

Overall, 27 high-end forums will be held under the framework of the 18th CAEXPO, where enterprises will also be able to explore new market spaces as more exhibitors and trade visitors from RCEP members like Japan, ROK and New Zealand will be invited.

A dedicated RCEP display zone and RCEP-themed training workshops will be set up and efforts will be stepped up to attract companies and businesses from other countries along the Belt and Road routes.

Due to the pandemic, however, the aforementioned events will be hybridised, being held both online and offline, with online side events intended to complement the physical ones. 

The 18th CAEXPO will continue to combine a physical trade show with the online version, to attract more international trade visitors to take part in online business talks, with the online platform running all year round to provide enterprises with business promotion services on a regular basis.

The same sentiment is shared in regards to the 18th CABIS where according to Vice Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) Zhang Shaogang, online events for CABIS will be further integrated and combined to highlight the main events. 

Besides the opening ceremony, these events include the Roundtable Dialogue between Lao Leader and Chinese CEOs, the China-ASEAN Business Leaders’ Forum & Special Meeting Marking the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations, and the China-ASEAN Seminar on Commercial Laws Cooperation.

The CABIS and its sideline events is hoped to strengthen practical cooperation between Chinese and ASEAN industrial and business communities in the new circumstances.     

“More efforts will be invested in inviting the Chinese offices and branches of foreign agencies, chambers of commerce and business associations and domestic buyers,” the SCIO went on to say. 

The press conference was concluded with a commitment to put into place, vigorous measures during the 18th CAEXPO and CABIS, to prevent import of cases and resurgence of domestic infections with epidemic response plans and emergency plans formulated and implemented.

THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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