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China, ASEAN urged to accelerate regional economic integration

Source:   Time:

HONG KONG, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members should accelerate the process of regional economic integration and promote regional connectivity, experts and scholars said here on Saturday.

Wang Qin, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at China's Xiamen University, said that over the past 10 years dubbed a "golden decade," China-ASEAN relations have ushered in a new era of comprehensive cooperation and the institutional arrangement for regional integration has been gradually put in place and an all- round, multi-layered and wide-ranging economic cooperation has been further deepened.

He noted that China and ASEAN enjoy geographical proximity, cultural affinity, historical bond and closely intertwined interests.

"China and ASEAN nations account for some 30 percent of the world population, and a combined economy of more than 10 trillion U.S. dollars," he told an ASEAN Development Forum.

Although ASEAN has become the fastest growing major market in the world, problems still exist in the development of China-ASEAN economic ties, such as lack of variety in the forms of cooperation, excessive government input and imbalance in general trade, goods and services trade, and mutual investment, he said.

But he expressed confidence that the diverse natural resources and industrial structures of China and ASEAN countries, and the fact that they are at different stages of economic development and different positions in the global production networks and regional industrial chains have made both sides highly complementary and created great potentials for their economic cooperation.

Wang made a four-point proposal on promoting China-ASEAN economic cooperation:

-- China should give priority to helping ASEAN in pushing forward the "One Belt, One Road" initiatives, namely the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road;

-- Both sides should make efforts to accelerate regional integration;

-- Efforts should be made to enhance connectivity;

-- New regional industrial chains and value chains should be built to end the situation where these chains are controlled by transnational corporations.

Echoing Wang's view, Sarah Y. Tong, a senior research fellow of the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute, said China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative is "the most important and paramount initiative."

She said bilateral economic relations have intensified and become increasingly important for both China and ASEAN nations.

The China-ASEAN economic cooperation and related institutional arrangements serve to enhance their respective economic relations with third parties, she said, adding that there is great potential for the two sides to further enhance cooperation.

With the theme of Building Mutual Trust and a Community of Common Destiny, the forum attracted government officials, experts and scholars from the 10 ASEAN countries as well as representatives of Hong Kong's business community and related experts and scholars from the Chinese mainland.

Do Tien Sam, chief editor of China Studies Review under the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences, spoke highly of the increasingly close China-ASEAN ties, noting China has become ASEAN 's largest trading partner while ASEAN China's third-largest.

He also cited the rapid development in non-governmental exchanges as well as in land, rail, sea and air transport linkage between China and ASEAN in recent years.

"China and ASEAN relations are standing at a new starting point, with bilateral cooperation in various areas, including culture, education and non-traditional security issues, being further deepened," he said.

U Than Tun, a member of the Myanmar Institute Strategic & International Studies, said as the ASEAN integration proceeds, more challenges will lie ahead, which mainly come from the diversity of different countries in the 10-member regional bloc.

He pointed out that political, security, and economic and social aspects are key to the post-2015 ASEAN agenda.

Commenting on the description of the next 10 years as a " diamond decade" in China-ASEAN cooperation, the Myanmar expert said it will encourage both sides to build an even better relationship in the future.

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