Written by Lin Han and Li Hongting / Translated by Xie Zongming
After several negotiations and meetings at the Diaoyutai State Guest House thirty years ago, China and ROK officially established diplomatic relations, opening a new
era in which China and ROK join hands. Thirty years later in 2022, ROK is invited for the second time to be the special cooperation partner of the 19th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), marking a further step in China-ROK relations.
ROK has always utilized CAEXPO’s platform to extend the economic cooperation with China and ASEAN countries, receiving fruitful results. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ROK diplomatic relations and the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It remains to be seen how ROK makes its presence at the CAEXPO and how ROK benefits from it.
Close cooperation partners
China and ROK have ages of friendly relations, which comes from the natural advantages, such as the close geographical position, similar ethnicity, and related culture, and the efforts of the two countries. China and ROK have thus become significant strategic cooperation partners with common interests, complementary advantages, and huge potential.
Since 2015 when China and ROK signed the China-South Korea FTA, the two sides have implemented eight rounds of tariff cuts. Later in 2021, China-ROK bilateral trade value reached US$ 360 billion, 72 times that of the year they established diplomatic relations. Early this year, RCEP officially entered into force, which brings broader space for the two sides to further deepen economic and trade cooperation.
To achieve win-win cooperation, ROK has also attached importance to their relations and position with ASEAN countries in recent years, and actively promoted their cooperation with ASEAN countries in various areas, which results in the progress of significant programs between them. In 2019, ROK and Thailand signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Collaboration on the Eastern Economic Corridor, extending the cooperation to hightech areas such as new automobiles, electronic equipment, and scientific satellites; ROK and Laos discussed the economic cooperation projects like hydroelectric energy; from 2005 to 2021, ROK major enterprises conducted 69 M&A activities, with a total value of US$ 5.1 billion. Currently, ROK has become ASEAN’s second-largest trade partner.
Under this background, CAEXPO and a series of events under its framework become a medium that channels cooperation for ROK with China, ASEAN countries, other RCEP countries, and countries outside the region. It can be said that CAEXPO is an indispensible force for ROK’s opening development.
Rose of Sharon in the CAEXPO
In the past few years, ROK has been actively involved in the CAEXPO as an RCEP member state.
At the 12th CAEXPO, ROK was invited as the special guest country. ROK sent high-level commerce officials to attend the event and held related events. ROK officials also participated in the high-level commerce discussion, symposium, and other economic and trade promoting events. Over 60 participants from 24 companies, 10 investigative investor groups, and 10 public institutions related to trade and investment were organized by ROK to exhibit their advantaged products, including autos, building materials, advanced technology, cosmetics, glass products, and electric appliances. All of this saw practical outcomes.
The 16th CAEXPO set the ROK Cosmetics Exhibition for the first time, receiving positive reviews from the participants and consumers. In September 2021, the CAEXPO Secretariat and KOTRA Beijing Office (KOTRA’s headquarter in China) signed the Memorandum on China-ASEAN Expo Friendly Cooperation with Special Cooperation Institution, making KOTRA the first South Korean special cooperation institution of CAEXPO. The signing of the memorandum also marked that CAEXPO and ROK will join hands to advance in servicing the RCEP construction.
All these remarkable achievements show the importance and acknowledgment of ROK toward CAEXPO. Hong Chang Pyo, KOTR A Beijing Chief Representative, spoke highly of CAEXPO for its platform function in facilitating ROK’s communication and cooperation with China and other countries in various areas, and he also complimented the CAEXPO Secretariat for the support and coordination for the ROK community to participate in the events. He said, “ROK attaches great importance to the CAEXPO, which is now listed as a key supported exhibition program by KOTRA. We will continue to fully utilize the platforms like CAEXPO and China-ASEAN Business Center to expand ROK’s business in the China-ASEAN region, pursuing win-win cooperation.”
Writing a new chapter with CAEXPO
Currently, as China-ASEAN cooperation advances, CAEXPO gradually extends its function from serving the “10+1” cooperation to serving the Belt and Road (BRI) countries and the RCEP. Since 2014, CAEXPO has introduced the special cooperation partner mechanism. Countries like Australia, ROK, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, Poland, and Pakistan were sequentially invited as special cooperation partners. The mechanism received positive reviews from the political and business communities of China, ASEAN countries, and other participating countries. They see the mechanism as an effective channel to promote trilateral trade and investment cooperation. Therefore, CAEXPO has laid a profound basis and gained experience in serving the RCEP.
2022 marks the 30th anniversary of China-ROK diplomatic relations and RCEP’s entry into force. On this special occasion, ROK is invited as CAEXPO’s special cooperation partner again, which means ROK will have more opportunities to explore cooperation with China and ASEAN countries. It is the opportunities within simple reach.
CAEXPO carries the duty of facilitating the win-win cooperation of China, ROK, and ASEAN countries. The 19th CAEXPO will set the first ROK pavilion, exhibiting ROK’s products that show the country’s image and characteristics.
During the CAEXPO, it is also planned to hold a series of economic and trade events for RCEP enterprises, such as each country’s pavilion opening ceremony, country promotion, ROK enterprises’ tour in Guangxi, and RCEP industrial park investment promotion conference, to boost ROK products entering the Chinese and ASEAN market. The set events also aim to introduce the trade and investment environment, agriculture, tourism, education, and eco-technology of ROK, further showing the country’s images as well as its achievement and opportunities in every aspect.
The rose of Sharon is the national flower of ROK. When in bloom, the tree grows many buds. The withering of a flower is followed by the bloom of countless ones, which is why the ROK people called it “Mugunghwa (flower of infinity)”. This autumn, the Exhibition Center will welcome the bloom of Mugunghwa. Just as this flower of infinity, CAEXPO’s help for ROK, China, and ASEAN could also prove infinite.
CAEXPO will continue to play its role as a platform to practically facilitate regional economic integration and promote win-win cooperation, jointly creating a better future.