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Maintain peace and advance economic integration in East Asia

Updated: Nov 13,2014 8:10 PM

Remarks by H.E. Li Keqiang

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

At the Ninth East Asia Summit

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, 13 November 2014

Your Excellency President Thein Sein,

Dear Colleagues,

It is a great pleasure to attend the Ninth East Asia Summit (EAS) and explore with you plans for peace, development and cooperation in East Asia. I thank you President Thein Sein and the Myanmar government for your thorough preparations and thoughtful arrangements for the summit.

East Asia has a time-honored history and a big population. Diverse nations, religions and cultures have created a civilization distinctive of East Asia through interactions and mutual learning, making significant contribution to human progress. Since the 1970s and 1980s, East Asia has risen rapidly and become the fastest growing and most dynamic region in the world. In recent years, East Asian countries have overcome the impact of the international financial crisis by sticking together in difficult times and maintained regional stability and the momentum of growth, further contributing to world prosperity and development.

A fundamental reason of East Asia’s rapid development is the existence of a peaceful and stable regional environment. East Asian countries, as direct beneficiaries of regional peace, should firmly safeguard regional stability. Parties should properly address disputes through peaceful means and pursue lasting friendship and win-win cooperation. East Asian countries, highly complementary economically, have a huge potential of cooperation. Parties, with their interests inextricably linked, should deepen regional economic integration and strive for integrated development and common prosperity. East Asian countries are connected by shared land and sea borders and cultural affinity. They cherish a fine tradition of sticking together in thick and thin and helping one another in time of need. Parties should adopt a rational and sincere approach in perceiving each other’s interests and concerns and work in a spirit of inclusiveness and mutual respect for harmonious co-existence.

The international situation is going through complex changes, world economic recovery remains a slow process, local conflicts and regional hot spot issues keep flaring up, and terrorism and public health incidents have posed common threats to the international community. Against such a backdrop, we should more than ever cherish the sound situation of development in the region, which has not come easily, and strive for progress in both the political and security field and economic field. We should promote regional peace and stability, actively respond to global challenges, deepen cooperation in economic and social areas, and work hard to build a peaceful and prosperous East Asia.

Regarding political and security issues, the key is to maintain peace and stability in the region.

The stability and development which East Asia enjoys is attributable to the joint efforts of the people of East Asian countries, in which China has also played a due part. China has always acted as an important force for peace and stability in the region. And China, which remains a developing country, needs a long-term, peaceful and stable international and neighboring environment as it endeavors to achieve the two centenary goals, namely, to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the centenary of the Communist Party of China, and to turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by the centenary of the People’s Republic of China. We are firmly committed to the path of peaceful development. This is determined both by our history and cultural tradition and by our immediate fundamental interest of achieving modernization, and shall remain unchanged regardless of outside interference or suspicion. China’s policy of building friendship and partnership with its neighbors is sincere and consistent, and its wish to bring benefits to the region and its neighbors through its development is genuine. China firmly supports ASEAN in establishing the ASEAN Community next year comprising the three pillars of Political-Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community so as to play a positive role for regional stability and development. China is ready to work with other countries in the region to build an Asian community of shared interests, shared responsibilities and a shared destiny.

To achieve durable peace and stability in East Asia requires the backing of strong institutional arrangements. China and ASEAN countries are discussing the possibility of concluding a treaty on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation, which is aimed at providing an institutional framework and legal guarantee for peaceful co-existence between the two sides from generation to generation. China was the first ASEAN dialogue partner to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and it stands ready to become the first dialogue partner to sign with ASEAN a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Both China and ASEAN countries need peace and stability, as conflicts do not serve the common interests of people in this region. China’s resolve to safeguard territorial sovereignty is clear and its determination to uphold regional peace and stability is firm. China is ready to take the negotiations on signing the treaty as an opportunity to explore the conclusion of legal documents on good-neighborliness with more countries in the region with a view to achieving lasting peace in East Asia. China will be happy to host an Informal ASEAN-China Defense Ministers’ Meeting next year, and explore the possibility of opening a defense hotline to enhance defense and security cooperation. China advocates an Asian security concept that features common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and welcomes initiatives on regional security cooperation principles as proposed by Russia, Indonesia and India. China proposes that the EAS conduct in-depth discussions on the outlook and principles for security cooperation in order to build consensus and make joint efforts to ensure security and stability in the region.

The situation in the South China Sea is on the whole stable, and the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is ensured. Since the beginning of this year, China and ASEAN countries have conducted close and effective dialogue and communication on full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and on promoting practical maritime cooperation. We identified the dual-track approach for dealing with the South China Sea issue, according to which specific disputes are to be peacefully resolved through negotiation and consultation by countries directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law, and peace and stability in the South China Sea be jointly upheld by China and ASEAN countries working together. We agreed to actively carry out consultation to reach, on the basis of consensus and at an early date, a code of conduct in the South China Sea, for which early harvest has been achieved. We agreed to establish a hotline platform for joint search and rescue at sea among our maritime authorities as well as a senior officials’ hotline among foreign ministries of various countries for coping with maritime contingencies. In addition, parties concerned are exploring the establishment of various mechanisms of exchanges and cooperation among littoral states of the South China Sea. In seeking the settlement of disputes, China proposes that relevant countries actively explore joint development, as this is a realistic and effective way to manage differences. Neighbors are not something to be chosen. Frictions and even disputes are hardly avoidable in the interactions of neighbors. The ancient Chinese believed in harmony with neighbors. I believe that as long as we treat each other with sincerity and seek common ground while reserving differences, there would be no insurmountable obstacles that will stand in our way.

To properly handle the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula concerns peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the whole of Asia. China stands for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and for the interest of long-term peace and stability of the Peninsula and Northeast Asia, and China supports various countries in their continued commitment to peacefully settling the differences through dialogue and consultation. China firmly supports ASEAN countries’ efforts to build a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia and has reached agreement with ASEAN on signing the Protocol to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. We hope that ASEAN could step up consultation with the other four nuclear-weapon states so as to sign the protocol at an early date.

Nontraditional security issues, including terrorism, infectious diseases, climate change and disaster management, pose severe challenges to the international community. China welcomes the inclusion as proposed by Myanmar, the rotating chair of ASEAN, of these issues as indicative topics of this summit. China supports the summit in issuing a declaration or statement on these issues to display the resolve of member countries to jointly address these challenges. Based on its own needs and to honor its due responsibility as a major developing country, China will work hard to address climate change and deliver on its commitments in meeting the targets of energy conservation and emissions reduction. The Chinese government has provided emergency assistance with a total worth of about RMB750 million to regions hit by the Ebola epidemic. Right now, over 300 Chinese experts and medical personnel are working in these regions for epidemic prevention, control and relief, and we will send more medical staff and give more material assistance to countries in these regions to help with epidemic prevention. China is preparing for the establishment of the East Asia Center for Climate Change Response and International Cooperation. It will work with countries in the Mekong subregion to set up a joint control and response system of resistance to artemisinin-based anti-malarial drugs in the Mekong subregion, and will continue to hold joint exercises for earthquake and maritime search and rescue with relevant countries, so as to step up cooperation in nontraditional security areas in East Asia.

Regarding development cooperation, the key is to advance East Asian economic integration.

China, a major economy in the world, will remain a developing country for a long period to come and there is a long way to go before China becomes modernized. Likewise, many countries in East Asia are developing countries, and development remains the top priority of countries in this region. The development of China and ASEAN countries offers each other opportunities. The EAS should take the Plan of Action to Implement the Phnom Penh Declaration on the East Asia Summit Development Initiative as the guiding document for future cooperation, and take measures to promote cooperation in the following six key areas so as to advance East Asian economic integration.

― Promote trade and investment facilitation in East Asia. Since China and ASEAN started FTA negotiations in 2002, trade between the two sides has grown by eight times and per capita GDP of the ten ASEAN countries has more than tripled. China has been ASEAN’s biggest trading partner for five consecutive years and ASEAN has become China’s third largest trading partner. The two sides are working hard to complete, as early as possible, negotiations on an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN FTA. China is willing to take part in negotiations on investment treaties under the pre-establishment national treatment plus the negative list model. It will set aside RMB30 million in the next three years to support economic and technical cooperation between the two sides. China stands for trade liberalization and is committed to building a market and legal environment conducive to fair competition. It will work with other parties to conclude negotiations on the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) before the end of 2015 and we are happy to see that parties attending the just-concluded APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Beijing all supported starting the initiative of an FTAAP (Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific). China is open to negotiations on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). In our view, various FTA arrangements can play a positive role in fostering a just and free international and regional trade order.

― Accelerate connectivity in East Asia. The initiatives put forward by China to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road are aimed at strengthening connectivity among countries along the ancient land and maritime Silk Roads. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that is under preparations should follow the principle of openness and inclusiveness, act as a complement to the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and other existing institutions, and focus on financing regional infrastructure development. China has announced the establishment of the Silk Road Fund, and will support infrastructure construction on a priority basis. China will provide US$10 billion of preferential loans to ASEAN countries and will start the raising of US$3 billion for the second phase of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund. The China Development Bank will set up a US$10 billion special loan for China-ASEAN infrastructure development. All these measures will help speed up the building of regional connectivity.

― Expand financial cooperation in East Asia. To prevent major financial turbulence from happening in this region, we need to strengthen financial and fiscal cooperation with a special focus on improving the CMIM (Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization) which will effectively relieve regional short-term liquidity strains. We need to fully leverage the role of AMRO (ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office) and enhance the regional capacity for financial supervision, coordination and early warning. Countries also need to increase the size of local currency swap arrangements and settlement of cross-border trade in local currencies so as to provide financial facilitation and support for trade.

― Step up poverty reduction cooperation in East Asia. Poverty elimination remains a priority for East Asia to achieve development. China will put forward, at this year’s ASEAN Plus Three Summit, the East Asia Cooperation Initiative on Poverty Reduction, and will offer RMB100 million for rural poverty reduction projects. China will provide RMB3 billion of free assistance to less-developed ASEAN countries next year. China is ready to discuss the possibility of establishing a dialogue and cooperation mechanism for Lancang-Mekong River countries under the framework of China-ASEAN cooperation to help ASEAN narrow the development gap. Countries in the region may make good use of the APTERR (ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve) mechanism to respond to food security emergencies.

― Advance maritime cooperation in East Asia. Next year is designated as the year of maritime cooperation between China and ASEAN. The two sides may explore the possibility of convening a maritime cooperation forum to be attended by maritime ministers from relevant countries and increase dialogue and cooperation between maritime law enforcement agencies. The China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund with a total value of RMB3 billion is a major platform for the two sides to advance maritime cooperation in various fields. The two sides need to fully implement the 2014 projects and start application process for the 2015 projects as soon as possible. China will also provide RMB30 million for the East Asia Maritime Cooperation Platform.

― Intensify people-to-people and cultural exchanges in East Asia. Dialogue and exchanges among different civilizations and cultures in East Asia are instrumental in boosting mutual understanding and trust. The path of friendship and cooperation will extend wherever exchanges between people exist. We shall continue to explore into the history and culture of the Maritime Silk Road. China commends India’s efforts to revive Nalanda University and is ready to work together for cooperation in culture, education, international students and other fields. We shall encourage track II cooperation mechanisms in the region such as the Network of ASEAN-China Think-Tanks and the Network of East Asian Think-Tanks. I believe their wisdom will contribute to greater exchanges in the cultural and social sectors in East Asia and more prosperous development of Asia at large.

Dear Colleagues,

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the East Asia Summit. The EAS should continue to play its role as a leaders-led strategic forum, follow the principles such as ASEAN centrality, embrace equality, openness and inclusiveness, accommodate each other’s comfort level, conduct candid dialogue on major regional and global issues, and advance results-oriented cooperation in relevant areas.

East Asia is among the most promising regions in the world. The future of East Asia bears not only on the well-being of the people in this region but also on the future and destiny of the whole Asia-Pacific region. Countries, within the region and without, are passengers traveling in the same big boat with their interests closely linked. As a Myanmar proverb goes, “He who does not look ahead will encounter many difficulties.” All parties are contributors to East Asia cooperation. Let us join hands and work together to promote peace and development of the world.

Thank you very much.