Monday November 19, 2012

Asean-China trade to expand despite leadership transition

PHNOM PENH: Trade between Asean and China is expected to expand despite the recent major leadership transition in that country.

Asean secretary-general Dr Surin Pitsuwan said the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement had worked very well, with a 20% increase in trade between the 10-member grouping and the world’s second biggest economy.

“We hope the new Chinese leadership will continue encouraging trade with Asean even as China opens up its market,” he told reporters during the mid-day developments at the 21st Asean Summit, here.

However, Asean leaders are also hoping that China can increase its investment in the region, as what has been invested at present is considered small compared with other Asean dialogue partners.

“There is a wide gap between Chinese trade and Chinese investment in Asean,” he said.

China-Asean bilateral trade has sky-rocketed from US$7.9bil in 1991 to US$292.7bil in 2010. For the first half of 2011, bilateral trade recorded was US$171.1bil, an increase of 25% on a year-on-year basis.

China is Asean’s largest trading partner. Asean on the other hand, is the third largest trading partner of China.

Chinese investment in Asean for the first half of 2011 amounted to US$1.49bil, an increase of 34.3% compared with the corresponding period of 2010, but considered less than that put up by other dialogue partners.

Surin also warned of the risk of radicalisation and extremism faced by the region if the Rohingya issue in Myanmar was not well handled.

The Asean chief said about 800,000 stateless Rohingyas were currently living under difficult circumstances.

Most of them reside in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Neither the Myanmar nor Bangladeshi governments recognise them as citizens, leaving the Rohingya’s unable to secure proper basic needs, including education, jobs and healthcare.

On the South China Sea issue, Surin reiterated Asean’s stand that it could be solved peacefully and managed effectively.

China and four Asean members, namely Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, are caught up in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Taiwan as the other claimant. — Bernama

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