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Bring the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership of Long-term Friendship and Mutually Beneficial Cooperation to a New High
(2013-09-03)

 

Remarks by H.E. Li Keqiang

Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China

at the 10th China-ASEAN Expo and

China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit

Nanning, 3 September 2013

 

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN strategic partnership. It is also the 10th anniversary of the China-ASEAN Expo. In many Eastern countries, major celebrations are to be held on decennial anniversaries. So I am happy to join so many friends here on this festive occasion. We Chinese also say that it takes 10 years to grow a tree. With 10 years of development, the China-ASEAN strategic partnership has grown into a lush tree and borne rich fruits. Now is the time to harvest and sow seeds for the future. I have full confidence in the future growth of China-ASEAN relations. Let me extend, on behalf of the Chinese government, warm welcome to the guests present and warm congratulations on the successful opening of the China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.

Peace and development remain the theme of our world today. China is committed to the path of peaceful development and will actively contribute to regional and global stability and prosperity. Neighboring areas are always a priority in China's diplomacy. The new Chinese government will be firmer in implementing the policy of fostering amicable relationships and partnerships with neighboring countries, work more actively to pursue its development strategy with the development objectives of those countries in mind, and take more solid and effective steps to build a community of common destiny for peace and prosperity.

China and ASEAN enjoy geographical proximity, cultural affinity, a historical bond and closely entwined interests. China is the first non-ASEAN country to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. It is also the first country to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN and to launch and complete the building of a Free Trade Area (FTA) with ASEAN. Over the past 10 years since the establishment of the strategic partnership, China and ASEAN have respected each other, treated each other as equals, and built good-neighborly relations for mutual benefit. We have strengthened mutual trust, deepened pragmatic cooperation, intensified people-to-people exchanges, and made much headway in our cooperation in all fields, bringing tangible benefits to countries and peoples in the region.

There is no denying that there are still disturbing factors in the region that affect stability and development, but they do not represent the mainstream. On the disputes in the South China Sea, China maintains that consultations should be held by the parties directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law. The Chinese government is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities and is ready to seek a proper settlement through friendly consultations. China believes that the disputes in the South China Sea are not an issue between China and ASEAN, nor should or can they affect the overall China-ASEAN cooperation. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) jointly formulated by China and ASEAN countries 10 years ago has effectively safeguarded peace and stability and ensured freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. China will continue to work with ASEAN countries in a responsible manner to fully implement all provisions of the DOC and steadily advance consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea in a gradual way within the framework of the DOC.

Here, I wish to make a solemn commitment on behalf of the Chinese government. China's policy of building good-neighborly relations with ASEAN is by no means an expedient measure, but our long-term and consistent strategic choice. China will unswervingly give priority to ASEAN countries in its neighborhood diplomacy, deepen strategic partnership with ASEAN, and work with ASEAN to jointly uphold peace and stability in the region, including the South China Sea. At the same time, we will continue to support ASEAN's development, the ASEAN Community building and ASEAN's centrality in East Asia cooperation. China-ASEAN relations will be defined by long-term friendship and win-win cooperation, living up to the essence of our strategic partnership.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The international situation is undergoing increasingly complicated and profound changes. Developed countries are seeing some positive signs in their economies, and emerging markets and developing countries boast huge potential in expanding markets. These are the favorable factors. On the other hand, the world economy is experiencing deep adjustment and there are many uncertainties and destabilizing factors in the global economic recovery. The underlying impact of the international financial crisis is lingering, and structural problems such as runaway debt, misaligned growth and North-South imbalance remain serious. To address the difficulties and challenges confronting various countries, development is still the ultimate solution.

With almost half of the world population and one third of the global economy, Asia has created a series of growth miracles and has long been one of the most dynamic regions in world economic development, particularly in recent years. Yet we also need to recognize that development among Asian countries is highly uneven, and they face the daunting task of boosting growth and improving people's lives. Due to rising expectation of possible withdrawal of quantitative easing by the developed countries in their monetary policy, especially major reserve currency issuing countries, capital flow has reversed and financial markets have become more volatile in some emerging markets and developing countries. Some Asian countries have been impacted as well and are confronted with multiple challenges of capital outflow, currency devaluation, economic slowdown and rising inflation. This has made people, including some friendly countries, worry. Under the current circumstances, the major tasks for China and ASEAN are still developing the economy and improving people's livelihood. We should continue to focus on these primary tasks, work in concert to tackle those potential and unpredictable risks and challenges, and maintain steady and sound economic growth. This represents the common interests of all parties and people of all countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thanks to the commitment of successive generations of leaders from all countries, China and ASEAN have traversed an extraordinary path in the past decade. Bilateral trade has increased fivefold, and mutual investment threefold. We have created a "Golden Decade" of cooperation. We took the lead in setting up the biggest FTA among developing countries in the world. This meets the trend of development and has brought real benefits to the people. ASEAN has become China's second biggest trading partner, and our economic links have never been as close as they are today.

China and ASEAN are natural partners for cooperation. We are both at a stage of accelerated industrialization and urbanization, and share similar development goals and tasks. Stronger economic cooperation between us will unleash huge energy. In the past couple of days, ASEAN leaders and I had extensive and in-depth discussions and we reached much important consensus. We all agree that our common interests have kept expanding. We have created the past "Golden Decade", and we are able to build a "Diamond Decade" in the future. We should build on past achievements and seek new strategic breakthroughs at a new historical starting point. On the basis of deeper political mutual trust and an open and inclusive spirit, we need to deepen and upgrade pragmatic cooperation, and push for new progress in our strategic partnership. To this end, I wish to make the following proposals for cooperation:

First, build an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA). The establishment of CAFTA blazed a new trail for trade and investment cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and has greatly boosted the business ties between the two sides. Looking ahead, China will uphold the tradition formed in the past ten years of CAFTA development, actively consider ASEAN's interests and needs on a priority basis, and create more favorable conditions for the development of ASEAN. We are ready to update and expand the content and scope of China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement under the principle of mutual benefit and common development. Our two sides may consider holding in-depth discussions on further lowering tariff and cutting non-tariff measures, actively negotiate a new set of service trade commitments, promote real openness in the investment field by improving market access and personnel interflow and enhance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, so as to keep CAFTA abreast of the times and build an upgraded version in wider areas with higher quality. We are ready to sign long-term trade agreement with ASEAN on agricultural products, import more marketable and competitive goods from ASEAN, and strive to raise two-way trade to one trillion US dollars by 2020 and increase two-way investment by 150 billion US dollars in the coming eight years. ASEAN is as much a priority in China's outbound investment as it is a priority in our diplomacy in neighboring areas. We also welcome enterprises from ASEAN countries to invest and do business in China.

We also stand ready to work with ASEAN to advance the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, explore ways for RCEP to interact with other regional cooperation mechanisms such as Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and jointly foster an open, inclusive and win-win environment for cooperation to ensure that the two wheels of regional and global trade arrangements will spin forward together.

Second, promote connectivity. We need to speed up connectivity cooperation in road, rail, waterway, aviation, telecommunications and energy, launch the Pan-Asia Railway network-a major flagship project-as early as possible and push it forward step by step, and make good progress in implementing a number of big projects. China will activate a new round of special loans, make good use of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund, and actively explore with other parties the creation of a financing platform for infrastructure development in Asia to fund major projects. While strengthening "hardware" connection, we also need to move faster at improving the mechanism for implementing the rules of origin and ensure good "software" connection regarding the systems and standards in information, customs clearance and quality inspection to create conditions for gradually building sound infrastructure links in Asia. Our two sides should also expand cooperation in investment and industries and jointly plan for and build a number of green, environment-friendly, smart and efficient industrial parks to bring us closer.

Third, enhance financial cooperation. This is critically important for maintaining regional financial and economic stability. China-ASEAN financial cooperation has made big strides in recent years. The Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization agreement has been expanded to 240 billion US dollars. China is ready to work with ASEAN members to strengthen the multi-tiered regional financial safety net, promote the actual use of bilateral currency swap agreements, encourage local currency settlement for cross-border trade and investment, provide greater facilitation for ASEAN institutions to invest in China's bond markets, and continuously improve regional mechanisms for financial risk early warning and rescue. I am confident that members in this region have the capacity to tackle various difficulties and challenges and, with China and ASEAN working together and helping each other, we will be able to maintain steady economic growth and economic and financial stability in the region.

Fourth, carry out maritime cooperation. This is an important area for the two sides to expand cooperation. China calls for establishing a China-ASEAN maritime partnership. The China-ASEAN Port Cities Cooperation Network will be set up during the Expo. With a three billion yuan China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund in place, we are now studying and promoting a number of cooperation programs with a focus on fishery base development, marine ecology and environment protection, production and trade of sea products, navigation safety and search and rescue, and facilitation of maritime transport. We look forward to ASEAN countries' active participation.

Fifth, increase people-to-people exchange. China proposes that the year 2014 be designated as the China-ASEAN Friendship and Exchange Year. In the next three to five years, China will provide 15,000 government scholarships for ASEAN countries. We will contribute to the Asia Regional Cooperation Fund for deepening cultural cooperation and people-to-people exchange. We should give further play to the positive role of China-ASEAN Youth Association and the China-ASEAN Think Tank Network. We also hope our friends from the press will continue to care for and support the growth of China-ASEAN relations and send out more messages of friendship and cooperation to boost confidence. The relationship between China and ASEAN countries is one of mutual help, as helping the other side is also helping oneself. Through mutual assistance, we can achieve win-win outcomes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me take this opportunity to give you a snapshot of the current Chinese economy. Since the start of this year, confronted with a complex situation of sluggish external market and mounting downward pressure on the economy, we responded in calm in light of the circumstances. We stabilized our macro-economic policies, timely identified a reasonable range for economic operation, and pursued a scientific macro-economic policy framework. We balanced stabilizing growth with adjusting structure and promoting reform. In doing so, we made systematic plans, and took a holistic approach and targeted measures to release the reform dividends, actively improve the structure, and fully harness the role of market. We have been unswervingly pressing ahead in this direction. Even in times of greater downward pressure, we sticked to reform as a way to solve problems and made structural adjustment to ensure that the economy operates within the reasonable range between the upper and lower limits. These measures, which meet both immediate and long-term needs and steer us away from pitfalls, have begun to pay off. In the first half of this year, the Chinese economy maintained steady growth. Recent statistics show that employment and prices are stable, a good harvest is within reach, and such major indicators as industrial output, import and export and use of foreign investment have rebounded. There is noticeable improvement in market expectation and confidence is strengthening. Still, we must not slacken our efforts or lower our guard. We are keenly aware of the many serious difficulties and challenges ahead, some foreseeable and some not. However, we have the conditions and capacity to complete this year's main tasks in economic and social development, and we are determined to lay a good foundation for the sustained and sound development of the Chinese economy next year and beyond. China's development will not only benefit the Chinese people, but also bring about more development and market opportunities for ASEAN countries and other countries around the world.

As early as over 2,000 years ago, China and Southeast Asia opened the maritime Silk Road. Today we are adding a new chapter to this historical splendor. The China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit have thrived over the past ten years. I wish they will continue to ride the waves and sail forward. Nanning, the permanent host city of China-ASEAN Expo, means tranquility in the south. For the 1.9 billion intelligent, hard-working and peace-loving people in China and ASEAN countries, tranquility means prosperity and strength. I believe China-ASEAN cooperation for common development will enjoy a brighter future and deliver more fruits that benefit both sides.

To conclude, I wish you all every success and good health during the Expo and Summit and I wish the 10th China-ASEAN Expo and the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit a full success.

Thank you.

 

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