Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,
It gives me great pleasure to attend the Investment, Trade and Tourism Ministerial Conference of the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum. On behalf of the Ministry of Commerce of China, I’d like to extend my congratulations on the opening of the Ministerial Conference and my warm welcome to all friends from the island countries. We are profusely thankful to your governments and people for offering sympathy and assistance in the wake of the Wenchuan earthquake.
In recent years, the friendly relations between China and Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have flourished with increased exchanges of high-level visits and widened areas of cooperation. Tonga, Vanuatu, and Micronesia have successively opened their embassies in Beijing, creating an enabling environment for furthering China-PICs ties. Bilateral trade volume exceeded 1.5 billion USD in 2007. In the first half of this year, our bilateral trade stood above 900 million USD, up by 8% year on year. The total volume for this year is expected to reach or even exceed the mark of 2 billion USD. Since 2006, Chinese enterprises have made more than 300 million USD worth of direct investments in the island countries and launched a number of major projects including Papua New Guinea (PNG) Nickel and Cobalt Mine Project and the aquatic food processing plant on Marshall Islands. Based on the principles set in the Guiding Framework on China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation, the bilateral cooperation on human resources development, investment, tourism, agriculture, education, transportation, infrastructure and financial aid has been deepening steadily thanks to our concerted efforts. Meanwhile, China has signed MOUs on implementing schemes for Chinese group travel to PICs with PNG, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga and Micronesia, and initiated group travel to countries such as Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga.
Ladies and gentlemen! The world today is undergoing sweeping changes and adjustments. In an increasingly globalized world, countries have grown increasingly interdependent. The pursuit of peace, development and cooperation has become the irreversible tide of the times. However, with the escalation of destabilizing factors in the world economy—continued turbulences in the financial market, soaring energy prices, intensifying food security concerns and mounting inflationary pressure—the cause of building a harmonious world is being tested on many fronts. Against this backdrop, it has become a major topic facing developing countries including China and PICs to draw on advantages and avert hazards and achieve sustainable development.
To meet the need for enhanced cooperation and common development under new circumstances, the first Ministerial Conference of the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum was successfully concluded in Nandi, Fiji in April, 2006. On that occasion, Premier Wen Jiabao announced, on behalf of the Chinese government, six major measures in support of the economic development of PICs, which were warmly received. With the support and cooperation from these countries, China has translated its commitments into concrete actions and garnered encouraging results over the past two years.
In April 2009, we will celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum Ministerial Conference in Fiji. China is confident that in the coming eight months, following the principles of “reciprocity, mutual benefits and common development” and through close collaboration with the PIC governments, the six measures will materialize one by one and deliver tangible benefits for the people of PICs.
To enhance the level of China-PICs trade and economic cooperation, the two sides could make efforts primarily in the following areas:
First, increasing bilateral trade toward the ambitious target of doubling its volume to 3 billion USD by 2010 compared with the base year of 2007. China will adopt a host of measures to encourage the imports of advantageous goods from PICs and gradually broaden the scope of duty exemption on imports from least developed island countries.
Second, encouraging investment collaboration. China remains committed to encouraging competent and reputable Chinese enterprises to invest and conduct business in PICs, actively seek government loans and business financing in joint projects with PICs in infrastructure, telecommunications, agriculture, forestry and fishery.
Third, promoting bilateral cooperation in tourism development. China actively encourages its tour operators to organize group travel to PICs. It will continue to invite PICs tourism officials for the annual China International Travel Fair to facilitate the exchanges between tourism administrations.
Fourth, prioritizing energy for bilateral cooperation. China has built a number of clean energy projects, like small-hydro, solar and wind-power, for the island countries. Building on existing cooperation, China will continue to share its cutting-edge technology for energy saving and the utilization of renewable and alternative energy sources, in a bid to help PICs respond better to energy security issues.
Fifth, conducting technology exchanges and practical cooperation in quality breeds culturing, agro-science, pest control and disease prevention and food reserves, to increase agricultural productivity for PICs. China will continue to send both bilaterally and within the framework of South-South Cooperation agricultural specialists to PICs to transfer paddyand vegetable-planting technology and organize agro-technology training courses to build capacity for PICs agricultural professionals.
Ladies and gentlemen! The Chinese government attaches great importance to developing friendly and cooperative relations with PICs. This is not a policy by convenience, but rather a long-term and strategic decision.
Politically, we believe every country, regardless of its size, strength and wealth, is an equal member of the international community. We respect the individual choice of PICs for their way of development and their efforts in safeguarding sovereignty and regional stability.
Economically, China is committed to implementing the Millennium Development Goals and building independent development capacities for PICs. It supports the PICs-led Pacific Plan for advancing regional cooperation. As a member of the developing country community, we will continue to render assistance to PICs within our capacity and without any strings attached.
In international affairs, China, being a permanent member of the UN Security Council, will continue to defend the rights and interests of the vast number of developing countries, including PICs, support their legitimate claims on sustainable development, help PICs respond better to climate change, energy and food security, marine resources preservation and other challenges by sharing capital, technology and experience.
History has testified and will continue to testify to the sincere, credible and reliable friendship and partnership between China and PICs.
Ladies and gentlemen! China and PICs share strong economic complementarity, huge potential for cooperation and broad prospects for development. As long as the two sides make a joint effort, China-PICs cooperation is sure to reach a new high, which is not only conducive to regional stability and prosperity, but also a major contribution to world peace and development.
To conclude, I wish this Ministerial Conference a complete success.
Wish you all a pleasant stay in China.