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ASEAN and China Prosper in Close Partnership

ASEAN and China Prosper in Close Partnership
By One Keng Yong (China Daily)


    This week ASEAN marks its 40th anniversary. From a loosely-organized grouping of five, ASEAN has expanded in many ways: Its membership has doubled to 10, and ASEAN cooperation has expanded to include political and security affairs, economic and finance, and socio-cultural and functional cooperation.

    A series of commemorative events under the theme "One ASEAN at the Heart of Dynamic Asia" are being organized by ASEAN member countries throughout 2007. Many activities have also been planned or conducted in Dialogue Partners' countries, including in China.

    Despite a changing regional and global environment, ASEAN is now focusing its efforts on establishing an ASEAN Community through the three pillars of the ASEAN Security Community (ASC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).


    At first, the goal was to create the ASEAN Community by 2020. However, ASEAN leaders, at their 12th Summit in January 2007 in Cebu, agreed to bring forward the target date by five years to 2015.


    The main objective of the ASC is to ensure ASEAN member countries live at peace with one another and with the world in a just, democratic and harmonious environment.


    The AEC is aimed at creating a stable, prosperous and highly competitive ASEAN economic region, characterized by a single market and production base, with free flow of goods, services, investment, skilled labor and freer flow of capital.


    The ASCC focuses on people by fostering a sense of regional identity, and shared responsibility and prosperity.


    The establishment of an ASEAN Community will take ASEAN cooperation to a higher plane and solidify regional integration.


    However, in pursuing its target of establishing an ASEAN Community by 2015, ASEAN still faces a number of challenges.


    These include a need for ASEAN to draw up a comprehensive, practical and coherent roadmap with clear targets for each of the three pillars of the ASEAN Community; a need to carry out action plans in an effective and timely manner, mobilize financial and human resources, and to narrow development gaps among ASEAN member countries.


    ASEAN is also working toward strengthening its institutions through the establishment of a charter.


    The ASEAN Charter, which is currently being drafted, is expected to transform ASEAN into a rules-based regional organization with a legal personality. Through the charter, ASEAN will be able to enshrine the values and principles that have been shaped by its history and experiences in the last 40 years.


    It would also serve to make ASEAN a more responsive, dynamic and integrated regional organization. As directed by the ASEAN leaders, the drafting of the ASEAN Charter will be completed in time for signing at the 13th ASEAN Summit in November 2007 in Singapore.


    The ASEAN Community will provide more opportunity for ASEAN and China to work toward mutual gains. China could play a greater role in supporting ASEAN's community building and economic integration.


    Relations between ASEAN and China, which began in 1991, have enjoyed rapid and comprehensive development.


    China was accorded full dialogue partner status in July 1996. The relationship reached a new height with the signing of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in October 2003, and the adoption of a five-year Plan of Action to implement the Joint Declaration in November 2004.


    These important documents provide the guidance and roadmap for advancing cooperation between the two sides.


    ASEAN and China commemorated the 15th anniversary of dialogue relations in 2006 in a befitting manner. The ASEAN-China Commemorative Summit of Heads of State and Government was held in October 2006 in Nanning to take stock of past achievements and provide future direction for ASEAN-China relations.


    The Commemorative Summit issued a Joint Statement to reiterate ASEAN-China relations towards an enhanced strategic partnership.


    In the area of politics and security, ASEAN and China are implementing the Joint Declaration of ASEAN and China on Cooperation in the Field of Non-traditional Security Issues, and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which concluded in 2002 in Phnom Penh.


    China was the first ASEAN Dialogue Partner to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia in October 2003 in Bali.


    ASEAN views China as a close neighbor and an important economy with tremendous growth potential for ASEAN business and investment. With its huge population and consumer base, China is a big market for ASEAN products and also a source of future FDI to the region. ASEAN is already benefiting from a large number of Chinese tourists visiting the region.


    ASEAN and China are steadfast in establishing the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area by 2010 for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and China, and 2015 for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. ASEAN and China concluded the trade in goods (TIG) and the dispute settlement mechanism agreements in 2004 and trade in services agreement in January 2007 and are now working on the investment agreement.


    The agreement on TIG came into force on 20 July 2005. Business transactions and the flow of FDI are expected to increase as a result of the entering into force of the TIG agreement and the reduction and elimination of tariffs.


    According to ASEAN's statistics, total trade between ASEAN and China reached $113 billion in 2005. Cumulative (2001-05) China's FDI to ASEAN amounted to $1.5 billion.


    The private sector plays an important role in facilitating the realization of closer economic ties between ASEAN and China. The China-ASEAN EXPO (CAEXPO), which started in 2004, is now in its fourth year.


    CAEXPO provides an opportunity for ASEAN and China to showcase their best products on offer. It also provides a venue for business people to buy and sell their products, and set up business networking in order to widen their markets.


    The China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) is held annually back-to-back with CAEXPO. The Business and Investment Summit serves as an effective way of bringing government and the private sector together to exchange views on matters affecting the economy and business of ASEAN Member Countries and China.


    The Fourth CAEXPO is scheduled for October 20-23, 2007 and the Fourth CABIS will be held in Nanning on October 20, 2007.


    Regarding sectoral cooperation, ASEAN and China focus their cooperation on 10 agreed priority areas of mutual interest, namely energy, transport, culture, public health, tourism, agriculture, information technology, two-way investment, human resources development and Mekong River Basin Development.


    Several memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and plans have been concluded, such as on non-traditional security, agriculture, ICT, culture, transport and Greater Mekong Sub-region Cooperation. More draft MOUs are being prepared.


    China supports ASEAN's integration efforts through various schemes. China contributed $1 million to the ASEAN Development Fund and pledged another $1 million for the implementation of IAI projects.


    China is also involved in the ASEAN Mekong Basin Development Cooperation (AMBDC), the Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and other subregional economic initiatives.


    ASEAN and China are cooperating in fields like transnational crime crack-down, natural disaster management and communicable disease control.


    To enhance people-to-people exchanges and promote public awareness, government officials, youth and intellectuals have had closer interactions to strengthen ASEAN-China understanding and cooperation.


    China's announcement at the ASEAN-China Commemorative Summit in October 2006 in Nanning that it would invite 1,000 youth from ASEAN Member Countries to visit China and offer to train 8,000 ASEAN professionals in different fields in the coming five years are outstanding examples of fostering people-to-people interaction, especially among young people.


    At the Track II (academic and scholar) level, the Center for ASEAN and China Studies (CACS) was launched on December 20, 2005, in Hanoi to facilitate research and studies and enhance public awareness on ASEAN, China and ASEAN-China relations, and promote networking among scholars and researchers.


    ASEAN-China's active cooperation and achievements in recent years have laid a good foundation for a long-term political and security, economic, and socio-cultural relationship.


    The close partnership and contacts that have been established at all levels and across all sectors, and broad-based cooperation, guided by well-thought out plans and a long-term vision, plus strong political will on both sides will ensure many years of economic growth and development, prosperity and peace for ASEAN and China.


    This partnership is expected to further strengthen as both sides focus their cooperation in areas of mutual interest of people in ASEAN countries and China.


    The author is the secretary-general of ASEAN
                                                                                                                               (China Daily 08/10/2007 page11)


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