China-ASEAN Expo to help lift cooperation amid sustained weakness in Western markets
Published: Sep 15, 2023 08:13 PM
China ASEAN Photo:VCG

China ASEAN Photo:VCG

China and ASEAN are set to further boost economic and trade cooperation amid a rapidly shifting global geo-economic landscape, as a major expo is set to kick off on Saturday in Nanning, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, offering a crucial platform for regional economies for cooperation amid sustained weakness in Western markets.

The China-ASEAN Expo, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has become a major platform that has greatly contributed to the tremendous cooperation between China and ASEAN over the past two decades, and will continue to help lift cooperation in more areas to new heights, experts said. 

Underscoring its importance, Chinese Premier Li Qiang will attend the opening ceremony of the 20th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit and deliver remarks, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. 

Foreign leaders and senior officials, including Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet, Laotian Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Indonesia's Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, and Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, and ASEAN Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn will attend the opening ceremony of the Expo, the ministry said.

"The number of enterprises and the number of visiting dignitaries at this expo are relatively high, reflecting the importance attached to it by both sides," Zhou Shixin, director of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Friday. 

This year's expo is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels in terms of exhibition scale. Nearly 2,000 businesses, including 750 foreign companies from 45 countries and regions are expected to attend the expo, and the total exhibition area will reach 102,000 square meters, according to media reports on Friday. Officials said earlier that project deals worth over 400 billion yuan ($54.88 billion) are expected to be signed, of which manufacturing projects will account for over 40 percent.

Zhou said that the major themes of the expo also highlighted development trends for China-ASEAN cooperation, noting that during previous editions, trade in goods were the main theme, and this year's expo focuses more on diverse new areas of cooperation such as trade in services, science and technology, and investment.

"This shows that in addition to paying attention to the basic development of the manufacturing industry, China, ASEAN and other participating countries also hope to use the opportunity of the expo to promote their own economic development and industrial structure transformation and upgrading," Zhou said, noting that new emerging sectors offer new growth points.  

The shift in the theme of the China-ASEAN Expo also reflected the platform's ability to adapt to new growth points in China-ASEAN cooperation over the past two decades, bringing extraordinary achievements.

According to official data, China-ASEAN trade has skyrocketed from over $100 billion in 2004 to $975.34 billion in 2022. China has been ASEAN's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, and both sides have been each other's largest trading partners for three years in a row. As of July 2023, the accumulated two-way investment between China and ASEAN has exceeded $380 billion. 

The expo played a vital role in that, with its past 19 editions attracting a total of 182 Chinese and foreign leaders, over 3,800 ministerial level guests and more than 1.1 million guest exhibitors, according to media reports. 

This year, the expo has renewed significance, as it provides a crucial platform for developing countries to boost their economies, as they face increasing downward pressure amid prevalent weakness in the US and European markets, Zhou said.