Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, October 15th, 2018

China-ASEAN Expo – ‘A Win-win Platform for Strategic Cooperation’

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China-ASEAN Expo – ‘A Win-win Platform for  Strategic Cooperation’

Themed “Jointly building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the China-ASEAN community of innovation,” the 15th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) was held in Nanning, capital of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, last week to promote bilateral cooperation and reinforce their support for the Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the MSR during his speech in Indonesian Parliament in October 2013 and Premier Li Keqiang stressed the idea of re-establishing the century-old seaway at the 16th China-ASEAN summit in Brunei Darussalam. 
The MSR will start in Chinese province of Fujian and pass Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan before heading south to the Malacca Strait. From Kuala Lumpur, the MSR heads to Kolkata and Colombo, then crosses the rest of the Indian Ocean to Nairobi and goes north around the Horn of Africa and moves through the Red Sea into the Mediterranean, with a stop in Athens before meeting the land-based Silk Road in Venice. It is also said that two routes are considered for the MSR and it is “designed to go from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other”.
The MSR features five major areas of cooperation namely policy communication, road connectivity, unimpeded trade, money circulation and cultural contact. That is to say, the proposal will boost trade, shipping, tourism and development of maritime infrastructure and enhance connectivity.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Maritime Silk Road Bank are two major financial resources for funding the planned investments.
CAEXPO has contributed a lot in boosting bilateral mutual investment and trade. For example, the trade volume between the two sides increased from $78.26 billion to $514.82 billion from 2003 to 2017. By the end of 2017, China-ASEAN mutual investment had exceeded $200 billion.
Since January 2010, China has implemented zero tariffs upon over 90 pc of ASEAN products, with average tariff rate down from 9.8 pc to 0.1 pc. In return, six ASEAN countries, i.e. Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, adopted similar preferential policies for China cutting down their average tariff rate from 12.8 pc to 0.6 pc. From the beginning up to the 14th CAXEPO, the total exhibiting enterprises reached 31020 and the number of exhibitors and trade visitors reached 661317.
Currently, ASEAN is China’s third largest trade partner and China has been ASEAN’s biggest trading partner for nine consecutive years. “Chinese firms have invested directly in over 4,000 companies in AEAN economies, employing over 300,000 workers,” said vice commerce minister Gao Yan.
This year’s CAEXPO is closely connected with the MSR, which is an indivisible part of the Silk Road Economic Belt. Since the adoption of the BRI five years ago, the two sides have promoted the Silk Road spirit and consolidated the steps to build a community with shared future.
To pave the ground for a smooth implementation of the MSR and ease territorial tension, the two sides need to deepen their togetherness, friendly relations and people-to-people exchanges. The CAEXPO highlights China’s import and focuses on opening the market to ASEAN. It provides an effective bridge for ASEAN products to enter the Chinese market. On the other hand, the expo, keeping close pace with the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) Investment Agreement, aims to build a platform for Chinese enterprises to make overseas investment in ASEAN. The CAEXPO will further boost the trading of tariff-reduction commodities in the CAFTA and cooperation in services trade.
CAEXPO is a prominent platform that integrates friendly dialogue, economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. The expo does not only cover cooperation in terms of trade and investment, but also cooperation in transportation & logistics, information, e-commerce, cross-border finance and other relevant fields that can extend its value chain.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in April last year, “The CAEXPO and the CABIS (China-ASEAN Business & Investment Summit) have become landmark events of Guangxi and an important platform for bilateral opening-up between China and ASEAN.” 
Through this platform, China and ASEAN countries seek to upgrade their strategic partnership and reinforce their bilateral cooperation in trade and investment. With this in mind, it is believed that the two sides will share the fruit of their trade and investment with other countries, especially the countries along the Belt and Road since both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road are indivisible and are supposed to go in parallel with each other. 

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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