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Take China-ASEAN relations to a new height

Updated: Nov 13,2014 8:00 PM     english.gov.cn

Remarks by H.E. Li Keqiang

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

At the 17th ASEAN-China Summit

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, 13 November 2014

President Thein Sein,

Dear Colleagues,

It gives me great pleasure to join you in the beautiful city of Nay Pyi Taw for this summit between China and ASEAN. I wish to thank President Thein Sein and the government of Myanmar for making great preparations and arrangements for this meeting. I look forward to a thorough and productive discussion with you to build more consensus for greater China-ASEAN cooperation.

Last year, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership. In recent years, the friendly and cooperative relations between us have witnessed sustained and steady growth and become a flagship of East Asia cooperation. While reviewing our achievements, we have taken a longer view and come up with such major initiatives as to build the China-ASEAN community of shared destiny and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. We have also decided to implement the “2+7 cooperation framework”, which refers to the two-point political consensus on promoting political and security cooperation and economic development in parallel, and the seven priority areas that include the political field, business, connectivity, finance, maritime cooperation, security and the people-to-people, scientific and environmental field. This has charted the course of our relations in the years to come.

Over the past year, relations between China and ASEAN have made big headway. Despite sluggish global economic recovery, two-way trade in the first three quarters of this year reached US$346.6 billion, up 7.5% year on year. We agreed to launch negotiations on an upgraded FTA and the first round of talks was held. Together we put in place an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and China and all ten ASEAN countries will become AIIB’s founding members. We worked hard to advance people-to-people exchanges and staged spectacular events for the China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year. We also launched the Network of ASEAN-China Think-Tanks. Such progress has been made thanks to the strong dynamism of China-ASEAN cooperation, and will herald an even brighter future for China-ASEAN relations.

The international situation remains complex and our world is confronted with many economic, political and security challenges. Nonetheless, East Asia has on the whole remained stable and continued to move forward. This would not have been possible without countries in this region working together for peace and stability and focusing on economic growth and people’s well-being. China and ASEAN have both contributed significantly to East Asia’s development. China is firmly committed to peace and development in Asia, to a path of peaceful development and to a diplomacy aimed at achieving good neighborliness. China stands ready to benefit its neighborhood and Asia at large with its own development and to live in lasting peace and shared prosperity with all its East Asian neighbors.

As close neighbors, China and ASEAN countries have extensive common interests. In the meantime, we also have some different concerns and disagreements, which is just natural between neighbors. Though there exist disputes between China and some ASEAN countries regarding the South China Sea, this does not affect overall stability in the South China Sea, and freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is guaranteed. Since the start of this year, our two sides have conducted effective communication and dialogue on the South China Sea issue and reached important and extensive common ground. We put forward a “dual-track” approach, making it clear that specific disputes are to be addressed by countries directly concerned peacefully through negotiation and consultation based on historical facts, international law and the DOC and that peace and security of the South China Sea be jointly upheld by China and ASEAN countries working together. We stressed the need to actively advance practical maritime cooperation and accelerate the establishment of cooperation mechanisms in such areas as joint maritime search and rescue, scientific research, environmental protection and crackdown on transnational crimes. We agreed to engage actively in consultations and, on the basis of consensus-building, conclude a code of conduct (COC) at an early date. China stands ready to work with ASEAN countries to promote full and effective implementation of the DOC and consultation on a COC, so as to effectively boost communication and mutual trust, expand consensus and cooperation and turn the South China Sea into a “sea of peace, friendship and cooperation” for the benefit of people of all countries in the region.

Dear Colleagues,

The China-ASEAN strategic partnership has entered a new historical era, presenting the two sides with rare opportunities for cooperation across the board. The Chinese government takes ASEAN as a priority in its neighborhood diplomacy and firmly supports the building of the ASEAN Political-Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community as well as ASEAN centrality in East Asia cooperation. China will work with ASEAN countries to expand practical cooperation in all areas, continue to deepen the integration of interests of the two sides on the basis of the 2+7 framework and build a closer community of shared destiny between China and ASEAN with a view to taking our relations to a new height. To this end, I wish to make the following proposals:

First, we need to work closely to develop a grand strategy for the growth of China-ASEAN relations. To guide the future growth of our relations, we should start formulating as early as possible the third plan of action (2016-2020) of the China-ASEAN Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. China is willing to offer ASEAN countries US$10 billion of concessional loans to boost practical cooperation in various fields between the two sides. On top of our commitment last year, we will provide ASEAN with another RMB50 million of assistance gratis to support ASEAN community building. Stronger bilateral cooperation between China and ASEAN countries will also be conducive to ASEAN community building. China is willing to negotiate and conclude with ASEAN a treaty of good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation between China and ASEAN countries. In this regard, we suggest the two sides continue to make good use of mechanisms such as senior officials’ meetings and establish a working group. To promote subregional development in ASEAN, China will respond positively to the initiative of Thailand and will explore the establishment of a Lancang-Mekong River dialogue and cooperation mechanism under the ASEAN Plus China framework. We plan to hold a foreign ministers’ meeting and a meeting of senior foreign affairs officials on this matter at an appropriate time next year. China will take an active part in East Asia cooperation on poverty reduction. Next year, China will offer less-developed ASEAN countries RMB3 billion of assistance gratis to support efforts at narrowing the development gap within ASEAN.

Second, we need to work together to build an upgraded China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. An improved China-ASEAN FTA will not only boost economic and trade cooperation between the two sides, but also lay the groundwork for the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). Under the principle of mutual benefit, China will work with ASEAN countries to advance negotiations on the upgraded version of the FTA and hopefully to conclude the negotiations before the end of 2015. China will, with a more open attitude, explore with ASEAN a model of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list in negotiating an investment treaty. In the coming three years, China will set aside RMB30 million in support of economic and technical cooperation under the FTA framework. China is also willing to work with ASEAN countries to build trans-border economic cooperation zones and industrial parks. The two sides may strengthen research and cooperation in such areas as harmonization of FTA rules and standards, industrial integration and SMEs cooperation.

Third, we need to speed up the building of the basic connectivity network. A connectivity network is the prerequisite for the free flow of trade and investment. We should continue to coordinate air, land and maritime transportation routes, and strengthen the planning and building of connectivity in the areas of telecommunications, power, and cyberspace. We should focus on improving the soft environment such as customs clearance facilitation, market regulation and standard and norm setting. The two sides may continue to jointly promote the early operation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to provide financial support to infrastructure development in the region. China has announced the establishment of the Silk Road Fund to support connectivity development on a priority basis. China will start fund-raising for the second phase of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund totaling US$3 billion. The China Development Bank will also set up a US$10 billion special loan on China-ASEAN infrastructure development. After years of development, China now has a strong capacity in infrastructure development and Chinese equipment is of high quality. We encourage competitive Chinese producers of iron and steel, cement and plate glass, etc. to shift their operation to ASEAN countries to meet the local need of infrastructure development through investment, leasing and loan lending so as to achieve mutual benefit.

Fourth, we need to foster new highlights in maritime cooperation. China proposes the building of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which will facilitate China-ASEAN maritime cooperation. China proposes next year be designated as the year of China-ASEAN maritime cooperation. The two sides may discuss the holding of such events as a maritime cooperation forum attended by maritime ministers of relevant countries, more dialogue and cooperation between the maritime law-enforcement bodies and the establishment of a maritime cooperation center. China welcomes and appreciates the finalization of the Pan-Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation Action Roadmap with the support of the Asian Development Bank, and is willing to continue the practical cooperation with all parties. China will work with ASEAN countries to implement well the projects sponsored by the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund in 2014. And we welcome ASEAN countries to actively apply for projects for 2015.

Fifth, we need to ensure “double security” in traditional and nontraditional areas. To enhance our strategic trust, China welcomes ASEAN defense ministers to attend the Informal ASEAN-China Defense Ministers’ Meeting in China next year. The two sides may discuss the establishment of a China-ASEAN defense hotline and hold joint exercises. We should continue to promote cooperation in nontraditional security areas. We welcome the signing of the MOU on Arrangements for Disaster Management Cooperation between the two sides. China has already provided RMB50 million of disaster relief assistance. We look for an early determination of cooperation projects and their proper implementation.

Sixth, we need to actively explore new areas of cooperation in people-to-people exchanges, science and technology and environmental protection. People-to-people exchange facilitates cooperation, and cooperation among the peoples will strengthen the basis of state-to-state relations. China is ready to work with ASEAN countries to develop an action plan for our cultural cooperation and support Myanmar’s efforts for a successful closing ceremony of the China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year. We will establish the second batch of the China-ASEAN Education and Training Centers and redouble our efforts to ensure the success of the China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week. China will set up new agricultural technology demonstration centers in ASEAN countries and carry out cooperation on rural poverty reduction and training programs for one hundred public health professionals. We are willing to work with ASEAN countries to promote implementation of the “Science and Technology Partnership Program” and support 100 young scientists from ASEAN countries to conduct short-term research in China in the next three years. China proposes the launch of the formulation of the China-ASEAN Strategy on Environmental Protection Cooperation (2016-2020) and the sharing of fruits of scientific innovation and ecological development to improve the well-being of people in the region, accelerate poverty reduction and benefit people on both sides.

Dear Colleagues,

The China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership, having experienced a “Golden Decade” of development, now stands at an even higher starting point for a Diamond Decade leading to broader and deeper cooperation. The Chinese people believe that an opportune time, a favorable geographic position and a harmonious relationship are the three important conditions for any big accomplishment to be made. China-ASEAN cooperation has entered the fast track and embraced sound opportunities for fast development. This represents “the opportune time”. Geographic proximity has facilitated people-to-people exchanges and trade links between countries in East Asia. This represents “the favorable geographic position”. In addition, countries in East Asia enjoy cultural affinity and close people-to-people connections. This represents “the harmonious relationship”. Our shared interests and the affinity of our cultural tradition far outweigh our different views and disagreements. China is ready to increase common interests with ASEAN and seize the opportunity so that the development of China-ASEAN relations will bring more benefits to our people and that the all-dimensional cooperation between China and ASEAN will stand out as a shining example of overall peace, development and cooperation in East Asia and the world at large.

Thank you very much.

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