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China-ASEAN Economic Cooperation Further Strengthened
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The Third China-ASEAN Business & Investment Summit was held yesterday in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, aiming to promote all-round economic cooperation between China and ASEAN countries and accelerate the development of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area.


In recent years the China-ASEAN economic cooperation has witnessed rapid economic development. The summit's theme, "Common Need, Common Future," fully reflects the positive momentum of China-ASEAN business ties and represents their shared desire to enhance cooperation between business communities in all fields.


This summit aims to offer government officials, entrepreneurs and scholars in China and ASEAN countries opportunities to publicize trading policies, promote projects and mutually exchange views. By creating a clear channel for dialogue between the business spectrum and government leaders, the summit also facilitates the formulation of new government policies and offers more opportunities for global purchasers, producers and investors to increase profit, thus giving an impetus to the development of China-ASEAN economic cooperation.


Premier Wen Jiabao praised China-ASEAN relations highly, saying that the all-round development of China-ASEAN business ties has brought substantive economic benefits to both sides, and also formed an important base and a strong driving force for boosting overall China-ASEAN relations.


Bilateral investments between China and ASEAN have expanded, with both sides becoming each others' fourth biggest trading partners. Regional and sub-regional cooperation between China and ASEAN has been enhanced, with the 2004 implementation of the "Early Harvest Program" and the reduced tariffs of 7,000 kinds of ASEAN goods in 2005, Wen said.


Wen also made five proposals for future cooperative development: expanding the scale of trading, deepening investment collaboration, upgrading economic and technological cooperation, working to build a high-standard China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, and steadily advancing sub-regional cooperation.


Myanmar Prime Minister General Soe Win hoped that China-ASEAN SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) cooperation projects can be further developed, and that cooperation in the fields of economy, agriculture, tourism, energy and public health will be strengthened.


Liu Yonghao, president of China's New Hope Group, was very optimistic about China-ASEAN business ties. He said that the cultural background and lifestyle of ASEAN countries are similar to those of China, thus easing trade cooperation. In particular, private companies in China were encouraged by Premier Wen to provide US$5 billion in favorable loans to help the investment by ASEAN countries.


China was, is and will always be one of Malaysia's biggest economic cooperation partners, stressed Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi during the leaders' dialogue. He stated that his aim during this summit was to make sure that the bilateral relationship between the two sides was further strengthened. He pointed out that exchanging information and experience on industry and commerce was crucial. Badawi suggested developing regular dialogues between China and ASEAN every year at the same time as the expo, capitalizing on this opportunity for trade and communication.


Li Ruogu, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of China, aired his views on how to maximize the environment for more mutual investments. He suggested exploring multi-level regional cooperation between neighboring regions, for example, Guangxi with Cambodia, or Yunnan with Thailand or Laos, so as to improve exchanges on infrastructure construction, investment and trade, environment protection and tourism. In addition, city-to-city or port-to-port cooperation would be more practical and allow optimal cooperative development.


Issues relating to the advantages and challenges of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area were also discussed during the summit.


( by staff reporter Xu Lin, November 1, 2006)

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