Chinese PM stresses Asean trade, downplays disputes
BEIJING (AFP) - China's trade with South-east Asia could more than double to US$1 trillion (S$1.28 trillion) by 2020, Premier Li Keqiang told regional leaders, downplaying simmering territorial disputes and stressing their "common destiny", state media reported on Wednesday.
Mr Li called for an upgraded version of the free trade deal between the two sides and insisted that "disruptive factors" should not get in the way of regional cooperation, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Trade has grown six-fold over the past decade to US$400 billion in 2012 between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Nations (Asean), it said.
But Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea - believed to sit atop vast deposits of oil and natural gas - even waters close to the coasts of its neighbours, and has been increasingly assertive over the issue in recent years.