China-ASEAN trade to burgeon further in 2020, experts say

By Xie Jun and Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/5 19:58:39

A visitor selects Nepalese Thangka at the exhibition area joined by exhibitors from countries along the Belt and Road during the 14th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Sept. 13, 2017. The 14th China-ASEAN Expo opened Tuesday, highlighting trade and investment among China, ASEAN and other countries along the Belt and Road. (Xinhua/Lu Boan)

Trade between China and Southeast Asian countries will continue to boom at a faster speed in 2020, thanks to Beijing's push to increase trade volume with those states under the shadow of the China-US trade war and the two regions' high complementarities in trade structures, experts said on Sunday. 

China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will also see closer trade ties under a broader policy push, such as signing of a massive regional trade deal - the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - the experts noted. 

"I expect that China-ASEAN trade will grow 8-8.5 percent on a yearly basis in 2020," predicted Zhou Shixin, an associate research fellow at the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

China-ASEAN trade grew 7.5 percent in US dollar terms in the first 11 months of 2019, customs data showed. 

Zhou Rong, a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, agreed that the China-ASEAN trade scale will burgeon this year. 

He said that China's investment and infrastructure projects in ASEAN countries like Malaysia would reduce transportation costs and stimulate their exports to China, which would be a "growth point" in China-ASEAN trade this year. 

At the same time, the protectionist stance of the US and the sanctions it launched against other countries would also prompt China to open up more in order to secure cooperation with regions like ASEAN, Zhou Rong said. 

"Because of US protectionism, China has a stronger need for trade diversification. ASEAN countries also have to adopt an opening-up policy as they know they can't rely on the US (for trade cooperation) anymore," Zhou Rong told the Global Times on Sunday. 

In 2019, ASEAN became China's second-largest trading partner, squeezing the US to be China's third-largest partner.

Many Southeast Asian governments are already pushing for regional trade cooperation via policy design. A number of Asian economies including China, Japan and Indonesia are poised to sign the mega Asia-Pacific trade pact known as RCEP this year, which Zhou Shixin said will create a new regional framework that is more convenient and less expensive, increasing the motivation for trade among RCEP members. 

Zhou Rong also noted that trade between China and ASEAN countries will continue to rise due to the strong complementarities in their trade structures. 

He said that China imports a lot of food, especially fruit, from ASEAN countries. "In particular, 65 percent of China's fruit imports come from Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, and the potential of such imports can be tapped further," he said, adding that ASEAN countries import manufacturing products from China. 

"ASEAN countries need the opportunities provided by China, and China needs stable trading partners," he said. 

Zhou Shixin said that China has a price advantage in many high-tech products like 5G networks and devices, and it can export those products to ASEAN countries.

Posted in: ECONOMY

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