By H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Vientiane, 7 September 2016
Your Excellency Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith,
It is a pleasure to attend the 19th ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Summit and join you to review the history of APT development, envision a bright future of East Asia cooperation and discuss plans for regional cooperation. On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to thank the Lao government for the thoughtful preparation and arrangements it has made for the Summit.
APT cooperation, which emerged as Asian countries worked in unity to meet the financial crisis, is about to enter its second decade. Having stood the test of the global financial crisis, APT cooperation has become one of the most full-fledged and productive cooperation mechanisms. It has delivered tangible benefits to people of the region and contributed to making East Asia an important engine for world economic recovery and growth.
We meet at a time of difficult world economic recovery. Fluctuations continue to plague the international financial markets; global trade remains sluggish; trade protectionism is clearly on the rise; and economic globalization is facing a stronger headwind. The international security situation is no cause for optimism. Regional conflicts and hotspots are intertwined; terrorism, flow of refugees and other non-traditional security threats have become more pronounced and presented a common challenge to the international community.
The G20 Summit, just concluded in Hangzhou under the theme “Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy”, put forth a host of major initiatives and measures and sent a strong message of parties working together to tide over difficulties. Under the new circumstances, East Asian countries need to stay vigilant, plan ahead and keep their focus on growing the economy, improving people’s well-being, advancing practical APT cooperation and maintaining overall peace and stability. This serves to ensure that East Asia cooperation, sound and sustainable as it is, will always stay on the right track and bring benefit to the people of countries concerned.
Since it was set in motion 19 years ago, APT cooperation has become an important platform for East Asia cooperation and played an important role on the political and economic stage in Asia and beyond. Since last year, new progress has been made in APT practical cooperation across the board. Countries concerned have worked in real earnest to implement the APT Cooperation Work Plan 2013-2017 and the EAVG II Report. A large number of cooperation projects have been carried out. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was officially launched into operation; CMIM made continued progress; AMRO was officially upgraded into an international organization; and steady headway was made in APTERR institution building and RCEP negotiations. New steps have also been taken in such areas as connectivity, social, people-to-people, cultural and non-traditional security cooperation. As an important part of East Asia cooperation, China-Japan-ROK cooperation also made progress. The eighth China-Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held late August in Japan. Practical cooperation in various fields has been moving forward, providing useful impetus for APT cooperation.
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of APT cooperation. I suggest that we take this as a new starting point to increase input, cement the role of APT as the main channel for regional economic integration and write a new chapter in East Asia cooperation. Next year, China will host the 15th East Asia Forum as well as commemorative activities and will discuss with various parties the formulation of an “East Asia economic community blueprint”. Here, I wish to put forth the following suggestions for APT cooperation going forward:
First, we need to step up financial security cooperation. We need to further enhance the efficacy of CMIM and ensure sound periodic review of relevant agreements. We need to facilitate AMRO in strengthening institution building, support greater contacts between AMRO and other regional mechanisms such as the Boao Forum for Asia, build it into an authoritative platform for regional macroeconomic research and assessment and make sure that it supports APT countries in elevating their macroeconomic monitoring capabilities. China supports the establishment of an Asian Financial Cooperation Association. This will enable us to promote experience sharing and exchange of expertise among regional financial institutions in a joint effort to uphold regional economic and financial stability.
Second, we need to deepen trade and investment cooperation. Last year, trade among APT countries was $1.3 trillion in total, accounting for merely 15% of the total of the 13 APT countries. As such, there is still much untapped potential for intra-regional trade. China supports ASEAN centrality in RCEP negotiations. We hope that parties will speed up and conclude negotiations as soon as possible to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation among APT countries. China hopes to discuss with various parties the establishment of an APT SMEs services alliance to help SMEs gain more tangible benefits from regional integration.
Third, we need to advance cooperation in agriculture and poverty alleviation. China supports greater efforts for APTERR institution building. The Modern Agriculture Cooperation Demonstration Base and the East Asian Transaction Platform for Livestock Products initiated by China will soon be officially launched. China will continue to conduct programs such as the APT Roundtable on Food Security, the Modern Agriculture Workshop and the APT Village Leaders’ Exchange Program. And we look forward to active participation by all sides. China is actively implementing the Cooperation Initiative on Poverty Alleviation in East Asia, which is expected to move into a stage of substantial implementation within this year. China and the Laos have jointly sponsored the APT Statement on Promoting Sustainable Development Cooperation to encourage countries in the region to implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and make sustainable development a reality in East Asia. Moreover, China, Japan and the ROK may also harness their respective strengths to explore trilateral cooperation with ASEAN on sustainable development.
Fourth, we need to advance connectivity building. China supports ASEAN in formulating the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 and stands ready to strengthen synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the master plan so as to promote, on that basis, overall connectivity within East Asia. China will work with other parities to make full use of such financing platforms as the AIIB and the Silk Road Fund to secure greater financial support for connectivity projects in Asia, especially in ASEAN countries. China will continue to advance the building of the East Asia maritime cooperation platform, and will play a successful host to the Seminar on APT Connectivity Partnership.
Fifth, we need to create new models for production capacity cooperation. China, Japan and the ROK are strong at equipment manufacturing, infrastructure development as well as financial and human resources. The three countries may work together to explore the possibility of greater production capacity cooperation with ASEAN countries. China will host an international seminar on APT production capacity cooperation within this year. Government officials and representatives from industrial, academic and research communities of countries in the region are welcome to attend the seminar and share their views and ideas. China may also work with Japan and the ROK to help ASEAN countries with logistics and supply chain building to enhance economic integration in East Asia.
Sixth, we need to promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Since the launch of the APT Cooperation Fund in 2008, a variety of events have been conducted in the social and cultural fields. China supports the Fund in carrying out more people-to-people and cultural programs. Parties concerned should earnestly implement the Memorandum of Understanding on APT Tourism Cooperation signed early this year and strengthen interactions between the East Asia Cultural Cities and ASEAN Cultural Cities. This year, China will host the “Understanding China” program and “Eyes on China Program for Mainstream Media in Asia”, and we look forward to the active participation by parties concerned. China supports the APT Statement on Active Aging proposed by Thailand and stands ready to share with other countries in the region experience on coping with population aging.
Asia will not enjoy prosperity and development without a peaceful and stable regional environment. As we speak, the situation in Asia remains stable on the whole. This does not come easily and should be cherished by all of us. Against the backdrop of incessant hotspots and conflicts in other parts of the world, East Asia should remain a place of peace, for only in this way can we seize the opportunity for development and prosperity. China calls for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in Asia. As all countries have a stake in each other’s security, we should all work to build consensus and make the regional security architecture more inclusive instead of exclusive. We should work to avoid confrontation and try to find appropriate ways to handle sensitive issues, like the issue of history, and address them through peaceful and diplomatic means. The purpose is to find a path of security and development compatible with the reality of the region.
Some colleagues just mentioned the Korean Peninsula. As a close neighbor of the Peninsula, China is committed to denuclearization on the Peninsula, to peace and stability on the Peninsula and in the region at large, and to addressing relevant issues through dialogue and consultation. We oppose any move that may create tension on the Peninsula and in this region, and we support all efforts that will help ease tension and resume dialogue.
China’s development has benefited from the greater environment of stability in East Asia, and China’s development has brought new development opportunities to countries in the region. In the first half of this year, despite the weak global economic recovery, China’s economy withstood the downward pressure and realized a growth rate of 6.7%, running within a reasonable range. The economic structure is making faster adjustment. The shift from old to new growth drivers is picking up speed. We are confident that for a fairly long time, China’s economy will maintain a medium-high growth rate and move toward the medium-high end of development. We will pursue innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, push forward supply-side structural reform and open up still wider to the outside world. China is still a favored place for transnational investment and an important engine for world economic growth.
East Asia cooperation now stands at a new starting point with a lot to look forward to. China will work closely with all parties to promote East Asia integration with APT as its main channel, focusing particularly on two-way trade and investment cooperation, so that this region will truly be a powerful engine driving global growth and a land of peace, tranquility and harmony. By so doing, we will better serve the interests of people of all countries in the region and make even greater contribution to peace, stability and development of the region.