Business and political leaders from China and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) met on Tuesday in order to draw up plans for a proposed maritime trade route between China, Malaysia, Myanmar and India. The expo lasted four days and brought in over 2,300 companies from throughout Asia to the Chinese city of Nanning.
Zhang Gaoli, the Chinese Vice Premier, opened the ceremony by calling on all ASEAN member nations to assist in building a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” and speaking of the common development, trust building, and economic growth that the project would bring. He also encouraged both sides to strengthen the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and increase opportunities for cultural exchange.
The Vice Premier’s statements were welcomed by ASEAN leaders. Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said that he wishes for closer cooperation between China and ASEAN due to the large role that maritime connectivity plays in the region’s trade and prosperity, while Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated that he is looking forward to working with China to iron out the details and expressed hope that the establishment of the Maritime Silk Road could happen regardless of regional conflict.
ASEAN member nations and China have named the past ten years the “Golden Decade” with regards to their relations and have labeled the next ten years the “Diamond Decade”, with a goal to implement more economic integration during this period.
Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN reached US$443.61 billion in 2013 – almost six times the figure it was during 2003. The two regions are determined to push this figure to US$500 billion dollars during 2015, and over one trillion dollars by 2020.
According to Zhang Gaoli, China will import more than US$10 trillion worth of products in the next five years, and its outbound foreign direct investment will surpass US$500 billion. “The sustained and sound growth of the Chinese economy will continue to drive the world economy and bring benefits to people of ASEAN countries,” he said.