Nanning, 9 September (ZXS) -- Question: What are the successes of the China-ASEAN Expo in the past 18 years?

——Interview with Xu Ningning, Executive Chairman of China-ASEAN Business Council

China News Agency reporter Lin Yanhua Lin Hao

This year marks the 10th anniversary of building a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future, jointly building the "Belt and Road" initiative, and the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Expo (hereinafter referred to as the "East Expo"). At present, the negotiations on the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area Version 3.0 are progressing steadily. In the past 20 years, what far-reaching impact has the East Expo brought to promote China-ASEAN strategic mutual trust and all-round exchanges and cooperation? And how will it help the construction of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area Version 3.0? Xu Ningning, Executive Chairman of the China-ASEAN Business Council and Chairman of the Industrial Cooperation Committee of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), recently gave an exclusive interview to China News Agency's "East-West Question" for interpretation.

The following is a summary of the interview:

China News Agency: In the 20 years since the China-ASEAN Expo was held, what far-reaching impact has it had on promoting China-ASEAN strategic mutual trust and all-round exchanges and cooperation?

Xu Ningning: In 1991, China and ASEAN established dialogue relations, and after more than 10 years of cooperation and development, the construction of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was officially launched in 2002, which marked that China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation has entered a new historical stage, and the vast majority of product trade between the two sides will implement zero tariffs.

The China-ASEAN Expo came into being when China and ASEAN mutually open their markets, need to enhance mutual trust and friendly relations, enhance cooperation in a series of fields, and especially need a platform to promote trade and investment.

At the Seventh China-ASEAN (2003+10) Summit in 1, China acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, upgrading bilateral relations to a strategic partnership geared towards peace and prosperity. China proposes to hold the China-ASEAN Expo and the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Nanning, China every year since 2004. This provides an important platform for the construction of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area to achieve a win-win situation, and lays a good foundation for the subsequent construction of the China-ASEAN community of common destiny and the joint construction of the "Belt and Road".

Practice has proved that over the past 20 years, the annual East Expo has played a major strategic support and catalytic role in deepening China-ASEAN cooperation, the development of China-ASEAN good-neighborly and friendly relations, and the expansion of Guangxi's opening up, which is of far-reaching strategic significance and great practical significance.

Over the past 20 years, I have visited Nanning every year to witness the "Golden Decade" and "Diamond Decade" of the East Expo, witnessed that the event has become a booster for the mutually beneficial development of China and ASEAN, a pragmatic platform for promoting regional economic integration, formed a "Nanning Channel" for China-ASEAN opening up and cooperation, driven the implementation of a number of major projects such as China's, Malaysia's, "Two Countries, Two Parks" and China-ASEAN Information Port, promoted China and ASEAN as each other's largest trading partners and important investment partners, and promoted China. The ASEAN Free Trade Area has been upgraded from version 1.0 to version 2.0 and towards version 3.0, making positive contributions to the construction of the "Belt and Road".

September 2023, 9, Nanning, Guangxi, China-ASEAN Expo site. On the same day, the 16th China-ASEAN Expo was held in Nanning, and the exhibition will close on September 20. Photo by Yu Jing

China News Agency: Since the 11th session, the East Expo has set up specially invited partners, inviting countries other than China and ASEAN to jointly build the "Belt and Road" and RCEP member countries to serve as the participants, so as to promote the organic connection between the "One Belt" and the "One Road". How do you evaluate the expansion of the East Expo from serving "10+1" cooperation to serving the "Belt and Road" and RCEP cooperation?

Xu Ningning: One of the remarkable characteristics of the China-ASEAN Expo is to closely follow the needs of the times of China-ASEAN cooperation and promote the implementation of a series of consensus documents, joint statements and action plans reached by China and ASEAN, which is also the way to the success of the East Expo in the past 20 years.

ASEAN countries are located at the intersection of land and sea of the "Belt and Road" and are key areas for high-quality joint construction of the "Belt and Road". In particular, the promotion of a series of projects such as the China-Laos Railway, the new international land-sea trade corridor, and the Yawan high-speed railway in Indonesia shows that the construction of a China-ASEAN community with a shared future is constantly taking root and blossoming. The construction of the "Belt and Road" has brought tangible benefits to the people of ASEAN countries, and the local people's awareness of the "Belt and Road" has continued to increase.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, and over the past 10 years, the East Expo has played a major role in promoting the joint construction of the "Belt and Road", promoting trade, investment, connectivity and regional cooperation between China and ASEAN countries. At present, China and the 10 ASEAN countries have signed a consensus document on jointly building the "Belt and Road", organically combining the "Belt and Road" with the construction of the ASEAN Community, and have made many achievements in policy communication, facility connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds.

This year's East Expo continues to expand the platform function, inviting the heads of enterprises and international organizations from more than 40 countries and regions around the world to participate in the exhibition, setting up a special RCEP special exhibition area, the "Belt and Road" exhibition area, holding the RCEP Economic and Trade Industry and Commerce Summit Forum, the Guangxi Tour of Japanese and Korean Enterprises and the "Belt and Road" special activities, which will promote win-win cooperation in a larger scope.

On September 2023, 9, the 16th China-ASEAN Expo was held in Nanning, and the exhibition will close on September 20. Photo by Yu Jing

China News Agency: How will the China-ASEAN Expo help the construction of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area Version 3.0?

Xu Ningning: The China-ASEAN Expo was born from the construction of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, and also contributed to the development of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, promoting the joint development of China-ASEAN in mutual opening up.

The China-ASEAN Free Trade Area Version 1.0, completed in 2010, is a major symbol of China-ASEAN openness and cooperation, covering more than 90% of the tariff items of the two sides and implementing zero trade tariffs, making the economies of China and ASEAN more and more integrated. In 2019, driven by the joint construction of the "Belt and Road", the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was upgraded and launched version 2.0, and the two sides further opened up their markets.

Version 3.0 of the China-ASEAN FTA is mainly based on the current needs and development direction of China-ASEAN cooperation, focusing on the development of digital economy, green economy and other fields, and concerned about making the results of opening up benefit the majority of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The construction of China-ASEAN FTA Version 3.0 is conducive to sustainable innovation and development in the region, realizing deeper integration of industrial chains, supply chains and value chains, and building more favorable conditions for the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

To complete the China-ASEAN FTA version 3.0 negotiations as soon as possible, the two sides also need to reach more consensus and build an industrial chain and supply chain with complementary advantages. This year's China-ASEAN Expo will hold more than 70 related conferences and activities, fully demonstrating the rising demand for cooperation between the two sides. In order to cope with challenges and achieve common development, the two sides have built an important platform for cooperation and docking, which will vigorously promote the 3.0 version negotiations.

On September 2023, 9, the 16th China-ASEAN Expo was held in Nanning, and the exhibition will close on September 20. Photo by Yu Jing

China News Agency: At present, world trade unilateralism, protectionism and anti-globalization are constantly on the rise. Against this background, what kind of economic and trade relations should China and ASEAN maintain? In the future, how will China-ASEAN deepen regional industrial chain cooperation improve quality and efficiency, and what impact will it have on the future of the world?

Xu Ningning: The unilateral actions and trade protection implemented by certain major countries restrict global and regional economic development. ASEAN has long implemented a strategy of multilateralism and openness, and unilateralism and trade protection are incompatible with ASEAN's development policy.

On September 2023, 9, the ASEAN Expo 17th Anniversary Results Exhibition. Photo by Peng Huan

In the past, ASEAN took the EU as an example to learn from, but since Brexit, ASEAN has rarely mentioned learning from the EU, especially after the Ukraine crisis, ASEAN has fully learned the lessons of the EU, especially emphasizing not choosing sides, and opposing NATO's eastward expansion, and deepening friendly relations with many countries.

China and ASEAN live next to each other, advocate multilateral cooperation, and have strong industrial complementarity, so they should strengthen political mutual trust, economic and trade exchanges, and contribute to regional stability, economic development and even world economic growth.

At the 26th China-ASEAN (10+1) Leaders' Meeting just held, Chinese leaders proposed to achieve a higher level of economic integration and linkage development, work together to build an economic growth center, deepen industrial chain and supply chain cooperation, promote cooperation in emerging industries, and inject more certainty and positive energy into peace, stability and lasting prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

At present, China-ASEAN is taking the promotion of industrial cooperation as an important starting point for regional industrial chain cooperation to improve quality and efficiency, and by accelerating the upgrading of traditional industries and the layout of emerging industries, stimulating more innovation vitality, cultivating new economic growth points, and creating new productivity and development advantages.

Based on the new starting point of China-ASEAN cooperation, this year's East Expo focuses on high-level opening up and cooperation, and promotes institutional opening-up, which will inject new momentum into the economic development of China, ASEAN countries, regions and even the world. (End)

Respondent Profile:

Xu Ningning, Executive Chairman of the China-ASEAN Business Council and Chairman of the RCEP Industrial Cooperation Committee. Visiting professor at China Foreign Affairs University and China University of International Business and Economics. He graduated from the Department of Economics of Nanjing University in 1981, worked in the economic department of the government from 1981 to 1990, and specialized in the promotion of China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation since 1991. He has published 24 economic works, including "China-ASEAN Historically Becoming Each Other's Largest Trading Partner", "China-ASEAN: Building the Maritime Silk Road Together", and "Xu Ningning: China-ASEAN "Zero Tariff" Diary".