Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli calls for deeper China-Asean cooperation

Chinese Vice Primier Zhang Gaoli speaks during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China May 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

NANNING - Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli has proposed that China and the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) deepen cooperation in tourism, trade and industrial capacity, reported Xinhua news agency.

Zhang made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the 14th China-Asean Expo, titled "Co-Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Promoting Regional Economic Integration through Tourism".

The four-day event attracted 2,709 exhibitors, up 1.5 per cent from the previous event, while the number of buyers is expected to exceed 10,000, including about 4,000 international buyers, according to Yang Yanyan from the expo secretariat.

"China's equipment is cost efficient, and China has advantages in technology, training and financing, enabling China and Asean countries to nurture new comparative advantages and create new room for economic growth," Zhang said.

"China is willing to join hands with Asean to carry out industrial cooperation in the fields of clean energy, modern communication, cement, electric power and steel."

China hopes to sign more agreements with Asean countries in currency swaps, as well as in investment, expanding the use of yuan settlement, and guiding capital from both sides into Belt and Road projects, according to the Xinhua report.

Zhang also called for full implementation of a protocol signed in 2015 on upgrading the China-Asean Free Trade Area.

The upgrade of the Free Trade Area, already in effect, will inject new impetus to bilateral economic and trade development, Zhang said.

"China is willing to expand imports from Asean countries. We welcome them to attend the first China International Import Expo to be held in 2018," Zhang said.

From 1991 to 2016, bilateral trade volume grew nearly 56-fold while two-way accumulative investment volume rose nearly 355-fold, Zhang said. China has been Asean's biggest trading partner for eight years, while Asean has been China's third largest trading partner for six years.

In the first seven months of this year, China-Asean trade volume increased 14.5 per cent year on year, higher than China' s overall trade growth rate. In terms of finance, China and the 10 Asean countries were among the founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which since 2016 has provided funding totaling 2.8 billion US dollars to 17 projects in nine developing countries in Asia.

The 100-billion-yuan (US$15.32 billion) additional fund to the Silk Road Fund as well as special loans offered by the country's policy banks to support the Belt and Road Initiative will benefit more Asean countries, Zhang said.

He also expressed hope for infrastructure projects, including railways, roads and ports to better connect China and Asean.

He also said that China is willing to expand cooperation in tourism with Asean as this year marks the China-Asean Year of Tourism.

China is Asean's largest source of foreign tourists. In 2016, more than 38 million trips were made between the two sides and more than 2,700 flights flew every week.

Mr Zhang said both sides would increase the number of students studying in each other's countries, reported Xinhua.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Asean, and next year marks the 15th anniversary of the China-Asean strategic partnership.

Both sides should make use of the time to push forward the formulation of a 2030 blueprint on the China-Asean strategic partnership, Zhang said.

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