1. Warm greetings to friends from across ASEAN and China. Thank you for the invitation to speak at this year’s China-ASEAN Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum.
2. We mark the 30th Anniversary of our ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations this year. This is a significant milestone. In the past three decades, both sides have made meaningful achievements, including being each other’s first FTA partners.
3. The theme of this year’s CAEXPO is “Sharing Opportunities Created by the New Land-Sea Corridor, Building the China-ASEAN Community with a Shared Future”.
a. This is a timely and relevant topic as it encourages us to identify mutual interests and partner each other to achieve common goals. Both ASEAN and China have much to offer each other.
4. As we look ahead to the next level of our relationship, we can strengthen our cooperation in three key areas:
Cooperating on Economic Recovery and the Future Economy
5. First, we should press forward with close cooperation in fostering post-pandemic recovery and the future economy. This is an immediate priority for governments as we forge our way forward through and beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic.
a. ASEAN and China can strengthen cooperation in areas such as E-commerce, Consumer Protection, fostering competitive markets and supporting Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which are key enablers of growth.
b. We must also be prepared for evolving and new issues that are emerging as key concerns of the future economy, such as sustainability.
6. To take advantage of new opportunities, we must remain flexible in our approach and be ready to move quickly. ASEAN remains an expedient platform to have dialogues such as today’s, both at the Ministerial level and at the working level.
7. Apart from ASEAN, it is also vital that we maintain a stable and rules-based international order given that many opportunities in the future economy will require cooperation with multiple global partners.
ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA)
8. Second, we should continue to enrich the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA). The ACFTA remains the cornerstone of ASEAN-China economic relations, It has been instrumental in facilitating trade between both sides.
a. Our trade relations have remained robust amidst the global pandemic. China has been ASEAN’s largest trading partner for the past 12 years and ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner in 2020.
9. ASEAN and China are currently working together to enhance the ACFTA to ensure it remains a comprehensive, modern, and mutually beneficial agreement. We will continue to augment it by addressing other areas of cooperation.
10. Even as ASEAN and China cooperate on other platforms including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), it is critical that we continue to improve the ACFTA to ensure that it remains up-to-date and continues to benefit our businesses and communities.
Maintaining Close People-to-People and Business-to-Business Ties to Foster Regional Integration
11. Third, maintaining close People-to-People and Business-to-Business ties to foster regional integration.
a. For our relations to be strong, it is important that our peoples and businesses maintain a good understanding and appreciation of each other’s practices and priorities.
b. This understanding will, over time, lead to more initiatives that result in greater connectivity between our regions.
12. One such concrete initiative is the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, or CCI-ILSTC.
a. While co-developed by China and Singapore as a multimodal trade link between our regions, the CCI-ILSTC will also help us fulfil our common goals of stronger regional economic integration and supply chain resilience.
b. Many opportunities abound under this initiative as it opens doors to leveraging each other’s strengths for mutual benefit. We welcome all interested partners to work with us to develop the corridor, strengthen its network, and gain from the potential growth.
13. In tandem, we should ensure continued face-to-face exchanges as much as possible. Amid the pandemic, most countries have continued to facilitate essential travel, subject to public health measures. Bilaterally, visitors from China can enter Singapore using the Air Travel Pass which has helped maintain our links and connections.
a. Looking ahead, it will be crucial to restore safe travel flows between our countries to ensure that our people-to-people and business-to-business ties remain robust.
14. In conclusion, ASEAN and China share a deep and dynamic economic relationship that has evolved over the years and withstood the test of time. Let’s build on the progress of the past 30 years to strengthen our partnership in the decades to come.
15. With a common vision towards a shared future, I am confident that ASEAN-China relations will continue to grow from strength-to-strength.
16. Thank you.