Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,
On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to extend a warm welcome to the leaders of ASEAN countries and all the guests at the meeting.
Governments of China and ASEAN countries all give high priority to developing friendly relations and mutually-beneficial cooperation between the two sides. Since the first China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) in 2004, our two sides have made great efforts to advance the building of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. We have signed and put into effect the agreements on trade in goods and services, constantly lowered tariff duties and expanded market access, deepened sub-regional economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong River Basin and East ASEAN Growth Area, and promoted trade and investment facilitation. The trade volume between China and ASEAN increased from 105.9 billion dollars in 2004 to 202.5 billion dollars in 2007, attaining the trade target of 200 billion dollars set by our leaders three years ahead of schedule. During the first nine months of this year, our bilateral trade volume reached 180.4 billion dollars, up by 23% over the same period of last year and making China and ASEAN each other's fourth largest trading partner. Our mutual investment is expanding. While ASEAN makes considerable amount of investment in China, the investment of Chinese businesses in ASEAN is growing rapidly. With all the 10 ASEAN countries becoming tourist destinations of Chinese citizens, mutual visits between our people have become even more frequent. As a result, China-ASEAN cooperation in various fields has shown good momentum of growth featuring equality, mutual trust, mutual benefit and win-win progress.
China and ASEAN countries are all at a stage of fast economic growth. We are connected by the same mountains and rivers. We share similar cultures and have much to offer each other economically. This has given us a solid foundation and huge potential for closer cooperation. Amidst the rising uncertainties and destabilizing factors in the world economy, continued expansion of the financial crisis in the United States and increased volatility in the international financial market, the global economic growth has markedly slowed down, causing a severe impact on the Asian region. In face of such unprecedented challenges, it is of special importance to accelerate China-ASEAN cooperation. With this in mind, I wish to make the following proposals on strengthening China-ASEAN business cooperation:
1. Deepen cooperation in trade and investment. The two sides need to further deepen cooperation in trade in goods and services, continue to strengthen communication and consultation on the Investment Agreement of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, work to conclude negotiations and sign the agreement at an early date and ensure that China-ASEAN Free Trade Area will be established as scheduled. The Chinese government will encourage and support companies to increase their investment in ASEAN countries and facilitate the building of economic and trade cooperation zones in ASEAN countries.
2. Step up sub-regional cooperation. As an active supporter of ASEAN economic integration, China is working with countries concerned to jointly promote the transition of the Greater Mekong Sub-region from a transport corridor to an economic corridor and explore ways to carry out economic cooperation in the Pan-Beibu Bay. The Chinese government will support the accelerated opening-up and development of Beibu Bay Economic Zone and turn it into a new area of growth for China-ASEAN cooperation.
3. Improve cooperation mechanisms. We should give better play to the role of the existing communication and cooperation mechanisms, continue to do a good job in hosting the CAEXPO and the CABIS and promote exchanges and dialogs at various levels and in various fields. We should encourage intermediary agencies to provide services for cooperation between companies from the two sides, in particular those facilitating more effective cooperation between small and medium-sized companies.
4. Jointly respond to challenges. To follow the trend of economic globalization and strengthen regional economic cooperation will help us better seize development opportunities and meet major challenges. China will step up coordination and cooperation with ASEAN countries in finance, energy, environmental protection, food security and other fields with a responsible attitude to jointly promote the steady and sound economic and financial growth of the region.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends! This year is a challenging year for China. In spite of the complex changes in the international situation and the unexpected difficulties at home, we have maintained relatively fast economic growth and financial security and stability, won a major victory in our battle against the devastating Wenchuan earthquake, successfully hosted the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games and completed the Shenzhou VII manned space flight mission with flying colors. These achievements speak volume for the solid national strength China has accumulated in the past 30 years of reform and opening-up. On the whole, the fundamentals of the Chinese economy remain unchanged and macro control and regulation are producing expected results. In the first three quarters of this year, China's GDP grew by 9.9% year on year and the commodity price rise has slowed down in recent months. The most important task for us now is to manage our own things well. The Chinese government has taken and will continue to take measures to meet external challenges, and will work to ensure economic stability, financial stability and the stability of the capital market. We have the confidence, conditions and capabilities to overcome any difficulty or challenge.
China's development will bring more opportunities to countries in the world, especially our neighbors. We will remain committed to the socialist path with distinctive Chinese characteristics, fully apply the scientific outlook on development, speed up the transformation of the mode of economic growth, readjust macro-economic policies in a flexible and prudent manner, and work to boost domestic demand, consumption demand in particular. We will not only focus on the speed of development but also pay attention to the pattern, quality and efficiency of such development so as to bring about sustained, stable and relatively fast economic growth. China will continue to push forward reform and opening-up, follow a win-win strategy of opening-up, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and oppose protectionism in all manifestations. We will continue to pursue peaceful development, adhere to the principle of building amicable relationship and partnership with our neighbors, enhance good-neighborly, friendly and practical cooperation with our neighboring countries, and contribute to the common development of the region through our own development.
As the host of the CAEXPO and the CABIS, Guangxi is uniquely positioned to play an important role in promoting China-ASEAN cooperation. I hope that our Chinese and ASEAN friends from all sectors can make full use of this platform to strengthen communication, increase mutual understanding and enhance fruitful cooperation, and make new contribution to China-ASEAN business cooperation and China-ASEAN strategic partnership.
I wish the China-ASEAN Expo and the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit a complete success.