Written by The Editorial Department / Translated by Xie Zongming
In the opening remark of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo by Xi Jinping, President of China, he said, “We need to elevate economic and trade cooperation and facilitate an early and comprehensive recovery of regional economy”. In recent years, economy has become the most outstanding aspect of China-ASEAN cooperation. The enhancement of China-ASEAN economic cooperation is not only in consideration of the trend of developing closer China-ASEAN ties with high quality but also because of the urgency of regional comprehensive economic recovery due to the pandemic.
As a practical platform to promote the integration of the regional economy, China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) is duty-bound to fully utilize its function for the comprehensive development of economic cooperation between China and ASEAN and even in East Asia.
The most outstanding grades for the exam
Heading southeast from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, it takes about 4 hours to arrive in Chanthaburi, a province honored “home to fruit” in Thailand, where tropical fruit like durian and mangosteen are abundant. Recently, benefited from the durian craze in China, lots of fruiterers have had a wealthy life thanks to the skyrocketed orders. The trade volume of fresh durian export from Thailand to China are expected to break the record and China will continue being the largest importer of such fruit in 2021.
In Oudomxai, Laos, Chinese enterprises aim their investment here to construct modernized banana production bases. Villagers here can participate in the cultivation and management by joining the household contract, which not only provides individual standard housing but also offers a salary of around RMB 1,000 yuan and an annual bonus around 40,000 yuan for signing the contract. The money helps improve the life of local people.
From the in-coming of ASEAN fruit to the out-going of Chinese investment and model of management, the story of China-ASEAN cooperation in fruit industry is merely a reflection of all other mutually beneficial economic cooperation between China and ASEAN.
Since China and ASEAN established dialogue relations 30 years ago, the volume of trade between the two sides has expanded 85 times. In 2020, the trade volume between China and ASEAN reached US$ 684.6 billion , a historic record that has made ASEAN the largest trading partner of China, and the two sides have been each other’s largest trading partner ever since.
The bilateral investment also grows prosperous. Up to the end of June 2021, the volume of accumulated mutual investment had exceeded US$ 310 billion. Aside from the current fields of investment, new investment areas like high-techs, digital economy and environmental economy are also stably developing, becoming the new areas of growth in the bilateral cooperation.
The cooperation in infrastructure is also worth mentioning. Until the first half of 2021, the cumulative turnover of Chinese enterprises’ completed contracts was close to US$ 350 billion. With the further construction of the Belt and Road, major infrastructure projects like the China-Lao Railway and the China-Thailand Railway are making promising progress, marking the future of better connectivity.
Integration of regional economy is being enhanced as well. From the official establishment in 2010 to the entry into force of updated negotiated items in 2019, the developing China-ASEAN Free Trade Area has lifted all the tariffs on 90% of the goods. China-ASEAN FTA is like the pivot of China-ASEAN economic cooperation, prying for more possibilities for regional economic development and cooperation. In November 2020, China and ASEAN countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership together, which is the latest achievement in promoting the integration of the regional economy. Also, the implementation of sub-regional cooperation like the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation and China-ASEAN East Growth Area is the capillaries of regional cooperation, which will bring vitality to regional economic integration.
If the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations were a major exam for the bilateral cooperation, achievements in economic cooperation must have had the most outstanding grades among all excellent results, for it not only offers a solution for improving people’s well-being but also provides the answer to economic development.
Full efforts of CAEXPO eye on economic cooperation
In the development of China-ASEAN economic cooperation, China-ASEAN FTA is undoubtedly the milestone, and CAEXPO, a booster of the bilateral economy especially for the FTA, has been promoting its development. In the answer sheets of China-ASEAN economic cooperation, CAEXPO is unleashing its full efforts.
For 17 years, the CAEXPO has been featuring the combination of exhibition, conference and displaying the advantage of one major aspect and multiple specialized fields. With the five features in the main exhibition, CAEXPO shows the opportunities of trade in goods and services, investment, advanced technology, city-to-city cooperation, and so on. The professional exhibitions like exhibitions of agriculture, light industry, and forestry focus on the hot topics in China-ASEAN trade. By holding events like the ASEAN-themed business matchmaking and exhibitor one-to-one accurate matchmaking, the CAEXPO answers the question of “What to sell”, “How to sell”, and “How to buy”.
Enterprises are the embodiment of trade, for which the CAEXPO stimulating the enterprises to join has been proved useful. Since the first CAEXPO, a total of 926,000 enterprises from home and abroad participated. Especially for the rising of the ASEAN market, top enterprises in China like Huawei, Jingdong, Xiaomi, and Pacific Construction have also taken part in the CAEXPO, significantly promoting regional economic cooperation.
Chosen by the market, CAEXPO has facilitated the start of a series of enterprises and projects. In the 17th CAXEPO, a total of 86 domestic and overseas investment projects were signed, marking a new record in the CAEXPO history. The total volume of investment increased by 67.8% compared to the 16th CAEXPO. The platform is becoming increasingly popular
Under the background of the pandemic, the 17th CAEXPO adopted the “Online CAEXPO” for the first time. Online matchmaking, promotion, and live streaming have brought the China-ASEAN economic cooperation to a new level and become features in such cooperation.
Against the howling wind and head into the new world
Before the pandemic outbreak, the quality of China-ASEAN economic cooperation was already making great progress. The world economy has been heavily affected by the pandemic. Even so, driven by the crisis, China-ASEAN's will to promote economic cooperation is unexpectedly stronger after the outbreak, like a river washing a new way out against all hindrances. During the pandemic, the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor and digital economy kept developing despite the hardship, showing the hope of further cooperation and post-pandemic economic recovery for China and ASEAN.
Adapting to the new normal requires a timely reaction. A CAEXPO that keeps pace with the times will always be a supporter and platform for China and ASEAN to face the new challenges.
The 18th CAEXPO is themed “Sharing Opportunities Created by the New Land-Sea Corridor, Building the China-ASEAN Community with a Shared Future” and it will continue using the hybrid “Online + Offline” exhibitions. Keywords like the development of China-ASEAN FTA, entry into force of RCEP, more convenient trade procedure, investment promotion, market opening-up, integration of the 3 Chains (industry chain, innovation chain, and talent supply chain) will be centered around to hold a series of events, including RCEP exhibition section, China-ASEAN Production Capacity and Investment Cooperation Forum, the Belt and Road International Industry Cooperation and China-ASEAN Integrated Development of Industry Chain, Supply Chain and Value Forum, the 7th ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting on Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (SPS Cooperation). Also, the expo will facilitate the confirmation of a series of key projects by holding the China (Guangxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone Promotion Conference, China-Malaysia “Two Countries, Twin Parks” Cooperation Upgrading Promotion Conference.
In addition, the China-ASEAN Import and Export Index and the China-ASEAN Meteorological Development Index will be announced during the CAEXPO for the first time. The intention is to enhance its function as an indicator in China-ASEAN cooperation.
Currently, the preparation of the 18th CAEXPO is being carried out as planned. Work on domestic enterprises’ participation is progressing stably while the work about ASEAN participation is also stable and exceeding the expectation. ASEAN countries have been organizing the leading and well-known companies to join the CAEXPO. More countries along the Belt and Road are being attracted to the expo. Organizations and companies of the RCEP countries are also willing to participate in the CAEXPO.
Duty-Bound to promote the economic cooperation and facilitate regional comprehensive economic recovery, the China-ASEAN Expo is ready to hand in another brilliant answer sheet that can withstand the test of time.