The recently concluded China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) has been dubbed a success after billions of dollars worth of trade and investment agreements were signed between the two economic blocs over the five-day event, organisers said.
The deals also indicated the deepening co-operation between China and Asean that will result after the China-Asean free trade agreement (Cafta) takes effect starting on Jan 1.
Chen Wu, Guangxi province's vice-governor and secretary-general of the exposition's organising committee, said the event generated a total of US$1.65 billion worth of trade volume, an increase of 3.8% from last year, with total cross-border investment projects signed rising in value by 1.2% to $6.44 billion.
As many as 80 international co-operation projects were signed with a total investment of $3.98 billion in areas including industrial manufacturing, tourism development, infrastructure construction, transport and energy, agriculture and farm produce processing, business and trade logistics, software and information services.
Of the total international projects, 27 co-operation ventures with a total investment of $1.68 billion were signed between China and Asean countries.
Other parties to some of the agreements signed at the event came from the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Twenty-two projects with a total value of $525 million involve investments in Asean countries and the other five worth $1.13 billion will be invested in China by Asean-based companies.
In addition, Chinese enterprises reached 204 deals with total investment of 61.85 billion yuan, up 1.05% up from the previous year's event.
"The expo has focused on the upcoming FTA and brought huge business opportunities to both sides. Moreover, it's a significant, historical event for China-Asean co-operation and development, and also for the world's regional integration," Mr Chen said.
China is currently Asean's fourth largest trading and investment partner, with its trade accounting for 10.6% of the 10-country group's total. Its investment in Asean member states rose 125% year-on-year to $2.18 billion in 2008.
Mr Chen said CAEXPO pushed forward the final preparations for the China-Asean FTA that will take effect on Jan 1, 2010, in terms of on-site promotions and forum discussions.
Zheng Junjian, chief of the Guangxi Exposition Bureau, said that the seventh expo from Oct 20-24 next year would mainly display products that qualified for zero tariffs or other favourable treatment, with the theme of "FTA and New Opportunities at Nanning".
Financial co-operation was one of then other highlights at the sixth CAEXPO, given the key supporting role financial services will play in broader free trade.
Su Ning, vice governor of China's central bank, said there was huge potential for financial co-operation between China and Asean as the two sides have achieved development in the financial sector and their current financial ties are inadequate to keep up with their trade exchanges.
"There are challenges ahead, and the central bank will step up talks with central banks of the Asean member states to develop a stable and flexible mechanism for financial co-operation," he said.
Mr Su also said Beijing planned to open the country's financial market and develop a favourable environment for financial institutions from Asean to set up branches or take stakes in Chinese financial institutions.
Xiao Gang, chairman of Bank of China, suggested that China and Asean members should strengthen financial co-operation, an important element in helping them weather the global economic downturn and helping stabilise the world economy.
Li Ruogu, chairman of the Export-Import Bank of China, expected countries in the region to further open their financial and capital markets, ease limits on market entry in financial sector, develop new financial products, and push forward settlement co-operation to reduce dependence on the US dollar.
"We (China-Asean) have a long history of trading that has resulted in great achievements. Now, the China-India FTA is being counted down while bilateral co-operation has entered a critical moment," Mr Li said.
Sheng Guangzu, director of the General Administration of Customs of China, said the co-operation between the customs authorities of China and Asean members should enter a new stage as global economic conditions keep changing and China-Asean economic ties are growing closer.
Bilateral trade volume has grown since the two sides started to build Cafta six years ago, from $59 billion in 2003 to $112 billion last year.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said China and Asean countries played a very important role in the world economy as significant emerging powers.
"China and most of the Asean countries are going through the process of industrialisation and urbanisation with huge market space and potential for growth, indicating broad prospects in co-operation," he said.
After 10 years of unremitting effort, Cafta will be established as planned on Jan 1, 2010, with zero tariffs for 90% of the products traded between the two sides. In addition, the services trade market will be opened in a substantial way.
"This is a significant milestone in regional economic co-operation, as trade ties between China and Asean are entering a new stage," said Mr Li.
"We should then further promote mutual economic and trade co-operation to a deeper level, as well as make joint efforts to boost the liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment. We firmly oppose trade and investment protectionism in any form, as we want to advance global economic recovery and sustainable prosperity."
Source: Bangkok Post, 31 October 2009