China’s trade, investment with ASEAN booms

By Yang Kunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/31 20:48:40

Favorable policies support expansion of bilateral business relationship

People taste food from Thailand during the "Thailand Day" event at the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition in Beijing, capital of China, July 28, 2019. The "Thailand Day" event was held at the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition on Sunday. (Photo by Ren Chao/Xinhua)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has replaced the US to be the second-biggest trade partner of China in the first half of 2019, while China remained the biggest trade partner of the bloc for the 10th consecutive year, customs data showed.

The figures highlighted closer regional cooperation in a time of rising global protectionism and unilateralism. 

Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN member countries increased 4.2 percent to reach $291.9 billion in the first six months of this year, Li Chenggang, an official of China's Ministry of Commerce, told a press briefing of the State Council on Wednesday. 

In 2018, the total cumulative investment between China and ASEAN stood at $205.71 billion, growing 22 times over the previous 15 years. 

Li also noted that the 27th round of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations has been held in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province from July 22 to July 31. It is expected that the negotiations on the regional treaty could be completed within this year. 

In 2018, China and ASEAN upgraded their free trade agreement, aiming to build the largest free trade zone among developing countries. Now, more than 90 percent of the products traded between China and ASEAN members are duty-free.

Steadily increasing China-ASEAN relations are supported by favorable policies and geographical proximity. In recent years, trade in fruit has been a highlight of bilateral relations, bringing benefits to both, industry insiders said. 

For example, 1.34 million tons of fruit were exported to China from Vietnam in 2018, increasing 15.5 percent from the previous year, according to statistics from China Customs. 

The growing trade, especially in agricultural products, shows an open attitude of China and ASEAN in terms of international business collaboration, Xu Liping, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

This openness is in contrast to US protectionism and unilateralism in terms of foreign policy. 

"Governments tend to be more cautious over trade in agricultural products because they are concerned over competition with domestic farmers," Xu said. "But the growing trade in fruit between ASEAN and China shows a win-win situation where Chinese consumers will have more quality options in tropical fruit and farmers in ASEAN countries, where agricultural populations are huge, get more job opportunities."

Ding Yi, a representative of Shanghai Qingyuan Economic & Trading Co, told the Global Times that his company was one of the first to import Malaysian durians to China. 

In recent years, the company's sales have been climbing, with total sales reaching 1,000 tons annually.

"In recent years, demand for durian products in China has been steadily rising," Ding said. "Compared with 10 years ago when we started to import durians, the market is much more mature."

In June, China announced policies that would allow imports of whole durians from Malaysia. Ding said that as a result, sales are expected to be even higher. 

More agricultural products are exploring opportunities in the Chinese market. Avocado farmers in Myanmar, for example, anticipate getting permits to export their crops to China this year. Shipments may start as early as December, according to 

A representative from Shanghai Fengyi Imports also told the Global Times that although the main imported products of the company are cherries from Turkey, there is a good chance for it to make connections in Southeast Asia as the market for tropical fruit expands and more encouraging policies are rolled out. 

"As the economy upgrades in China, more middle-class consumers want expensive luxury fruit such as durian," Xu said. "That demand in turn can boost the agricultural sector in ASEAN countries as farmers get access to the huge Chinese market."

In terms of investment, Chinese companies are eager to expand their footprints and share their experience globally, Dai Yonghong, a professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies of Sichuan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

China's capital, technology, management experience and policies such as the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative that help build more infrastructure facilities would bring the region tangible benefits and real dividends that the US could not, Dai noted.

These infrastructure facilities such as railways will further help ASEAN countries transport goods to China and other markets. These facilities will also boost the development and upgrading of ASEAN's industrial system, Dai said.
Newspaper headline: Nation’s trade, investment with ASEAN booms


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