"From January to September, bilateral trade volume increased 35.6 percent year-on-year to reach US$75.5 billion," said Vice Premier Wu Yi Wednesday. "It is possible to exceed US$100 billion for the full year."
Wu made the prediction at the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, a sister event of the First China-ASEAN Exposition (CAEXPO). Both opened yesterday in Nanning, the capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
China's trade with its Southeast Asian neighbors has prospered since 1990, rising an average of 20 percent annually and hitting US$78.2 billion in 2003. ASEAN has been China's fifth largest trading partner for 11 consecutive years.
Wu also called for joint efforts from both sides to diversify trading, with focuses on machinery, electronics products and commodities with high added value.
China encourages domestic enterprises to import from ASEAN countries and intends to accelerate this campaign.
ASEAN is an important source of foreign funds for China. As of June this year, ASEAN members had recorded cumulative investment totaling US$34 billion.
Conversely, China's investment in ASEAN has been on the rise in recent years for a cumulative total of US$1.0 billion, and the government will continue steering domestic companies toward investment in the region.
China hopes to fast-track the establishment of the China-ASEAN free trade area (FTA). Regional economic integration is a growing trend amid the tide of globalization.
"China and ASEAN should team up," said Wu. "Only by doing so can we grasp opportunities, meet challenges ... and withstand fierce global competition."
China and ASEAN signed a comprehensive economic cooperative framework agreement in 2002 that is expected to lead to the establishment of the world's largest FTA by 2010. The area includes 1.7 billion consumers with a combined gross domestic product of US$2 trillion.
In September, the two sides completed negotiations on the trade of goods and will begin to implement tariff cuts in 2005.
The next phases of the FTA will concern trading of services and investment.
At the summit, ASEAN leaders expressed confidence in the concept and establishment of the FTA.
"The FTA will prove good for both," said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. "ASEAN has benefited from a more developed China."
(China Daily November 4, 2004)