Striveto Deepen Cooperation for Common Prosperity

Address by H.E. Wen Jiabao
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the 8th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit

The Honorable Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib,
The Honorable Prime Minister Hun Sen,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year is the China-ASEAN Friendship and Exchange Year and the 20th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. It is therefore highly relevant for the summit to take “deepen regional cooperation for common prosperity” as its theme. On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to extend warm congratulations on the opening of the summit and sincere welcome to all the distinguished guests present.

China and ASEAN countries are linked by the same mountains and rivers or face each other across the sea. Our forefathers have, since ancient times, lived and multiplied in Asia, the homeland for us all. As the Chinese saying goes, “It’s better to have a neighbor close by than a relative far away.” Geographic proximity has brought us close to each other. One can easily find vestiges of interaction and integration of our cultures whether in China or ASEAN countries. Stories of Admiral Zheng He’s many voyages to the Western Seas, travel to China by Boni King of Brunei, and the Bandung Conference have been told from generation to generation. Indeed, the traditional friendship between the Chinese people and the people of ASEAN countries has run a long course and is poised to become even stronger.

Since the 1980s and 90s, China-ASEAN relations have entered a new historical period with the deepening of China’s reform and opening-up. Firmly committed to closer communication, stronger mutual trust, enhanced cooperation and mutual benefit, we launched China-ASEAN dialogue relations and turned a new chapter in the annals of bilateral relationship. Over the past two decades, our relations have witnessed historic progress from all-round dialogue partners to partners of good-neighborliness and mutual trust, to strategic partners. A framework of all-dimensional, wide-ranging and multi-tiered China-ASEAN cooperation has gradually taken shape.

China has every sincerity in advancing its relations with ASEAN. Among big countries outside the region, China is the first to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to establish strategic partnership with ASEAN, the first to build free trade area with ASEAN, and the first to commit to signing the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. What is more, China firmly supports ASEAN in playing the leading role in East Asian cooperation.

China is committed to deepening practical cooperation with ASEAN. Thanks to joint efforts of governments and business communities on both sides, our two-way trade has registered an average annual growth rate of more than 20% in the past two decades, reaching nearly US$300 billion a year. China has become the largest trading partner of ASEAN, and ASEAN the third largest trading partner of China. We have launched such business and trade platforms as the China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, established the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund, China-ASEAN Public Health Cooperation Fund and China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund. China has provided training programs on capacity building for tens of thousands of people from ASEAN countries. China-ASEAN economic cooperation has never been more dynamic and more fruitful.

China has always stood by ASEAN countries rain or shine. The more difficult and challenging the times are, the more resolutely we have stood together. When a financial crisis swept across Southeast Asia in 1997, China refused to depreciate the RMB. At the height of the international financial crisis in 2008, China introduced a series of strong measures against the crisis and worked for steady growth of trade and investment cooperation with ASEAN countries. We have also worked together against such cross-border diseases as SARS, avian flu, and Influenza A H1N1 and such severe natural disasters as the Indian Ocean tsunami, and cyclone in Myanmar. China-ASEAN friendly relations have withstood the test of time and tribulations.

Facts have shown that China and ASEAN are both good neighbors sharing weal and woe and good partners for win-win cooperation based on equality and mutual benefit. As a popular Chinese saying goes, “Having a good neighbor is better than possessing gold”. I believe that as long as we act in the spirit of equality, mutual trust and seeking common ground while shelving differences, we will rise above our political, economic, religious, cultural and other differences, overcome the difficulties and obstacles on the road to progress, and move our cooperation forward towards common prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The global economic landscape is undergoing profound changes, and the status and role of Asia is becoming increasingly important. As the most dynamic part of Asia economically, China and ASEAN are both at a critical juncture of transition in development. To seize this rare opportunity for sustained, steady and fairly fast economic development, we need to step up economic cooperation and trade in the region. China and ASEAN, given our huge population, vast market and strong complementarity, stand to gain enormously from our cooperation. I see great possibilities lying ahead in deepening trade and investment cooperation between us. To bring our cooperation to a new high, we need to take the following actions on a priority basis.

First, make our Free Trade Area a success. The China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was launched on 1 January last year. It is another milestone in China-ASEAN relationship, and shows that our economic and trade ties now stand at a new starting line. The FTA has not only increased the market scale in the region and given our trade a powerful boost, but also helped enhance our cooperation in agriculture, communications, tourism, investment and other areas, making our economic complementarity a greater advantage in both scope and depth. China-ASEAN FTA is a good example of equality, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. In its first year, bilateral trade reached a record high of US$292.8 billion, up by 37.5%. In the first three quarters this year, our trade grew by 26.4%, with ASEAN export to China growing faster than its import from China. All this shows the FTA has increased rather than decreased the international competitiveness of ASEAN, and that ASEAN’s capacity to export to China has become stronger rather than weaker. We all have a stake in the China-ASEAN FTA, as we have worked so hard over the years to make it a reality and the FTA deserves our extra care. China is ready to continue expanding imports of competitive products from ASEAN countries, find proper solutions to the problems in the development of the FTA, and work for solid results from all our efforts. We will build the China-ASEAN Plaza in Nanning which will serve as an exhibition and marketing platform and logistic base for products from both sides. We hope that ASEAN businesses will take advantage of this and work to gain greater share in the Chinese market.

Second, work hard to promote connectivity. Connectivity within ASEAN and between China and ASEAN is important groundwork for deepening economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. It will play an important role in narrowing development gap within the region, raising regional competitiveness and accelerating the East Asian integration process. There exists vast potential for our cooperation in infrastructure and such “software” development as institution building and personnel exchanges. We will work closely with ASEAN to increase input in connectivity with relevant ASEAN countries so as to create better conditions for free flow of goods, capital and information, personnel exchanges and economic and social development in the region. China is ready to make good use of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund, China-ASEAN Inter-Bank Association and line of credit for ASEAN countries to support the China-ASEAN connectivity cooperation projects. To achieve connectivity is a long and arduous task. We should work for sound implementation of the projects where we have already had a plan; and lose no time in looking into the areas and projects yet to be identified and introduce implementation plans at an early date.

Third, step up bilateral cooperation on investment. Direct investment by ASEAN countries in China has reached US$67.3 billion, while investment by Chinese companies in ASEAN, now totaling US$13.5 billion, displays a trend of rapid growth. The Chinese government will, as always, welcome investment by ASEAN enterprises in China, particularly in its central and western regions. China also encourages its top enterprises to increase investment in ASEAN. China has pledged to establish in each ASEAN member country an economic cooperation zone to raise the level of economic cooperation through cluster investment. The China-Malaysia Industrial Park in Guangxi, the first of such joint efforts in China’s western region, serves as a good example. We welcome the capable Malaysian companies to get actively involved in the planning and development of the Park. We also hope to see more ASEAN firms coming to China for the development of similar industrial parks.

Fourth, deepen economic cooperation in the region. Greater regional and sub-regional cooperation in East Asia is the common mission for China and ASEAN. The ideas and approaches of regional cooperation developed by ASEAN over the years suit the reality of East Asia. They are well-considered, effective and should be carried forward. China has always been an active participant in and supporter for East Asian cooperation. We will encourage Chinese enterprises to participate

in sub-regional cooperation schemes such as BIMP-EAGA, the Greater Mekong Subregion and the Pan-Beibu Bay, and we will provide strong financial, technology and market access support in hope of creating a number of economic growth poles. China is ready to work closely with ASEAN to deepen existing financial and monetary cooperation in the region, increase the scale and scope of currency swaps, improve crisis response mechanisms under the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization, step up capacity building in regional economic monitoring, advance the development of the Asian bond market, gradually put in place a stable and mature regional capital market and enhance the region’s ability to resist international financial risks.

Fifth, expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges. This is an important way to deepen understanding and friendship among peoples and the key foundation for the sustainable development of China-ASEAN relations. ASEAN countries are now top choices of tourism destination for Chinese travelers. More than five million Chinese tourists chose ASEAN countries as their first stop of overseas trips last year. Interactions between young people on both sides, including students, are vibrant. More than 6,000 language volunteers are working in more than 40 Confucius institutes and classrooms in ASEAN countries. China and ASEAN have exchanged over 130,000 students. We should take the China-ASEAN Friendship and Exchange Year as an opportunity to step up exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, tourism, youth affairs and other areas in an effort to achieve the targeted 15 million mutual visits by 2015.

At present, the international financial crisis remains ominous, and world economic recovery is a hard and tortuous course amid growing instability and uncertainty. Sovereign debt risks in some countries are rising. International financial markets are suffering drastic fluctuations and unemployment in major developed countries remains high. Emerging economies are faced with inflationary pressures. World economic growth has shown signs of slowdown, and this has made a visible impact on Asia. Under such circumstances, it is vitally important for China and ASEAN to close ranks, get prepared to meet challenges over a rather long period of time, deepen regional cooperation with a more pragmatic and open attitude and promote sustained, steady and healthy economic development in China and ASEAN countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Twenty years have passed since the establishment of our dialogue relations. Twenty years is a blink in the long course of history, but not short for a historical period. I sincerely hope that major progress can be made in our dialogue relations and meaningful fruits can be harvested to the benefit of the people of China and ASEAN countries. I wish to reiterate here that cementing the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity and promoting all-dimensional and mutually beneficial cooperation with ASEAN remains the unswerving policy of the Chinese government. We will continue to follow the long-term policy of pursuing good neighborly relations and partnership with our neighbors, and be a good neighbor, good partner and good friend of ASEAN forever. China’s development will bring opportunities to ASEAN, while ASEAN’s prosperity serves the interests of China. We will work with ASEAN countries to take the launch of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area as a new starting point to expand, enrich and elevate our cooperation in pursuit of a better future of win-win cooperation and common prosperity.

In conclusion, I wish the Business and Investment Summit a complete success.

Thank you.