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Building a regional economic growth center, China-ASEAN cooperation upgraded again Release date: 2023-09-07    Source:CGTN

China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation has yielded remarkable results in various fields.

Trade in goods has taken a huge leap forward. With continuous policy dividends stemming from the implementation of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, total volume of goods traded between China and ASEAN reached $975.3 billion in 2022, 2.2 times that of a decade ago.

In the first seven months of this year, China-ASEAN trade hit $519 billion, constituting 15.3 percent of China's foreign trade. China has remained ASEAN's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, while ASEAN has been China's largest trading partner for three consecutive years.

Investment and collaborations in industrial parks have continued to increase. As of July 2023, cumulative bilateral investment between China and ASEAN countries exceeded $380 billion, with more than 6,500 direct investment enterprises established in ASEAN.

By leveraging platforms such as overseas economic and trade cooperation zones, economic and trade innovation and development demonstration zones, and "Two Countries, Twin Parks", industrial cooperation between China and ASEAN countries has deepened, playing a constructive role in driving regional economic growth.

The quality of free trade cooperation has been upgraded. In January 2022, the Free Trade Agreement between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the RCEP came into effect simultaneously. In February this year, negotiations for the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area 3.0 officially commenced.

In April, China and Singapore concluded follow-up negotiations for the upgrade of their free trade agreement. In June, RCEP came into full effect across all ten ASEAN countries.

Cooperation in the digital and green economy has progressed rapidly. In November 2022, both sides issued the China-ASEAN Joint Statement on Strengthening Common and Sustainable Development. More recently, they reached consensus on the ASEAN-China Initiative on Enhancing Cooperation on E-Commerce. Fields such as cross-border e-commerce, electric vehicles, and new energy are emerging as new growth sites for China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation.

During this year's ASEAN Summit, ASEAN is posed to accomplish more under the "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth" theme.

China has consistently supported ASEAN's central role. Both parties will continue to deepen trade, investment, and supply chain collaboration, fully tapping into cooperation potential in emerging areas such as e-commerce, digital economy as well as green economy, and jointly building a regional epicenter of economic growth.

Concurrently, ASEAN will promote the quality upgrading of free trade agreements with dialogue partners. Recently, a consensus has been reached with Australia and New Zealand to upgrade the respective free trade agreements. ASEAN will also speed up negotiations for the upgrading of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area 3.0, to establish a more favorable institutional framework for the comprehensive economic and trade cooperation of both sides.

Furthermore, with RCEP in full effect in ASEAN countries, China and other ASEAN members will work on improving RCEP cooperation mechanisms, accelerating the establishment of RCEP secretariats, enhancing economic and technical cooperation, and exploring procedures for the admission of new members, to ensure that all parties fully reap the benefits of RCEP.

By Yuan Bo, deputy director of the Institute of Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation