SCIO Press Conference on the 17th China-ASEAN Expo & Business and Investment Summit

Building the Belt and Road, Strengthening Digital Economy Cooperation

SCIO Press Conference on the

17th China-ASEAN Expo & Business and Investment Summit

On September 27, 2020, the State Council Information Office held a press conference on China-ASEAN economic cooperation and trade and the 17th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS). This is the 17th consecutive year that the State Council Information Office held a press conference on the China-ASEAN Expo and the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.

Li Chenggang, Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Commerce of China, Zhang Shaogang, Vice Chairman of CCPIT, and Zhou Hongbo, Vice Governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, briefed journalists on the economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN as well as the highlights and preparations of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.

ASEAN, for the first time, has become China’s top trading partner, opening up bright prospects as China and ASEAN are now largest trading partners for each other. According to Assistant Minister Li Chenggang, since the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year, economies around the world are grappling with growing downward pressure and shrinking international trade. Against this backdrop, China and ASEAN members strived to minimize the impact of the epidemic and bucked the trend with good trade and economic cooperation. First, growing bilateral trade. In response to COVID-19, China and ASEAN have opened fast-track lanes to facilitate personnel exchanges, and assisted each other with anti-virus supplies and medical equipment. Both sides have contributed to regional economic recovery by restarting the economy as quickly as possible, keeping up the momentum in Belt and Road cooperation, enhancing connectivity, and maintaining stability of industrial chains and value chains. In the first eight months of this year, China-ASEAN trade reached US$416.55 billion, up by 3.8% year on year and accounting for 14.6% of China’s foreign trade. Second, dynamic investment cooperation. In the first half of 2020, China’s investment in ASEAN amounted to US$6.23 billion, registering a significant year-on-year increase of 53.1% and accounting for 76.7% of China’s investment in countries along the Belt and Road. Third, closer cooperation in the digital economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated the development of new sectors and new forms of businesses. Against this backdrop, China and ASEAN are moving faster to explore digital transformation and development. Ever closer cooperation in the digital economy has become a new highlight in China-ASEAN cooperation. As this year is designated as the Year of China-ASEAN Cooperation in the Digital Economy, such projects as the China-ASEAN Information Harbor and China-ASEAN Commerce and Trade Platform inject strong momentum into the cooperation between China and ASEAN member states in the digital economy. Fourth, steady progress in regional economic cooperation. The year 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. Since the China-ASEAN FTA Upgrading Protocol fully entered into force last year, the economic integration between China and ASEAN countries has moved to a higher level, both in scale and quality. Sub-regional cooperation is booming, including the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, the Greater Mekong Subregion Cooperation, the China and BIMP-EAGA cooperation, and the China-Indochina Peninsular Economic Corridor. Further breakthroughs have been made in economic corridors. The greater synergy forged between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and ASEAN development plans, and the steady progress made in connectivity projects give a strong boost to regional connectivity and development.

Zhou Hongbo, Vice Governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, introduced the important role of the China-ASEAN Expo and Business and Investment Summit in promoting China-ASEAN all-round cooperation and the new features of the 17th CAEXPO. Zhou Hongbo said that after 17 years of continuous efforts, the China-ASEAN Expo and Business and Investment Summit has become Guangxi’s beautiful business card and a major platform for open cooperation between China and ASEAN countries, playing an important role in the joint efforts between China and ASEAN countries to build the “Belt and Road”. First, it has built high-level consensus on building a China-ASEAN community of shared future. A total of 83 Chinese and foreign leaders and more than 3,300 ministerial officials attended the previous 16 sessions of the China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit. Keynote speeches at the opening ceremonies, leaders’ meetings, ministerial consultations, country of honor activities, and dialogue between government officials and businesspeople have deepened the China-ASEAN strategic partnership. Second, it has deepened economic exchanges and trade and promoted the building of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN FTA. Since the China-ASEAN Expo was launched, a total of 832,000 businesspeople have participated in the expo and cooperated in trade in goods, investment, trade in services, international industrial cooperation and the building of cross-border industrial parks. On the CAEXPO platform, they have achieved concrete outcomes on economic cooperation and trade, boosting the building and upgrade of the China-ASEAN FTA. Third, the “Nanning Channel” has been opened to deepen cooperation in diverse fields. Under the CAEXPO framework, more than 200 conferences and forums have been held, covering more than 40 fields. A comprehensive cooperation has been put in place. We have pushed for the implementation of a number of major mechanisms and projects such the gateway for financial opening-up towards ASEAN and the China-ASEAN Information Harbor.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the China-ASEAN FTA. With the theme “Building the Belt and Road, Strengthening Digital Economy Cooperation”, the physical exhibition of the 17th CAEXPO will be held on November 27-30; and “Cloud CAEXPO” (online exhibition) will be launched on November 27, with permanent presence online and regular maintenance afterwards. Mr. Zhou Hongbo said the expo this time has the following four features. First, innovative approaches. In response to the COVID-19, the CAEXPO and BIS will “go cloud” and hold both physical and online exhibitions. To be specific, we will hold physical exhibition mainly participated by domestic participants and exhibitors and, in parallel, “Cloud CAEXPO” mainly joined by overseas participants and exhibitors. The opening conference will be held both online and offline. Leaders from China, ten ASEAN countries and special partner—Pakistan—will be invited to give speeches online, while the Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Center will be the main venue. Second, many highlights. During the expo, a special forum on the 10th anniversary of the China-ASEAN FTA will be held, and three commemorative activities will be held to mark the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Thailand, the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Myanmar, and the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the Philippines. To implement the Statement of the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the third China-ASEAN Health Cooperation Forum and sub-forums will be held. Third, enormous business opportunities. This year’s expo will set up a Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area cooperation exhibition area for the first time, expand the exhibition area for New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, improve the financial exhibition area centered on building the gateway of the financial opening-up, and retain the ASEAN commodity exhibition area and the “Belt and Road” international exhibition area; hold a promotion conference on the China (Guangxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone; and invite more domestic buyers to tap the potentials of domestic demand and serve a new development pattern that takes domestic economic circulation as the mainstay and promotes the mutual reinforcement of domestic and international economic circulation. Eight high-level forums will be held on health, international industrial cooperation, technology transfer, information harbor, agriculture, the environment, statistics and finance, to further broaden the “Nanning channel”. Fourth, upgraded services. We work with Alibaba Group to build a digital platform for never-ending “Cloud CAEXPO” to conduct uni-marketing. Chinese and foreign exhibitors can be on this digital platform throughout the year to display, negotiate, and live broadcast. This will give them better experience in participation and exhibitors, and help them create more business opportunities and achieve better outcomes. High-level forums and economic and trade promotion activities will be held both online and offline in parallel; offline, we will continue to improve exhibition layout and on-site services to help enterprises explore new markets. We will release the first English-language Blue Book on China’s digital economy and opportunities for ASEAN businesses, to deepen the cooperation between Chinese and ASEAN enterprises in the field of digital economy.

The 17th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit will be streamlined and held both online and offline, with full consideration of the current epidemic prevention and control situation. Mr. Zhang Shaogang said that in addition to the opening ceremony, the summit will also hold the roundtable dialogue between leaders of the country of honor (Laos) and Chinese CEOs and the China-ASEAN Business Leaders Forum. Since its inception in 2009, the roundtable dialogue has become a regular event in the BIS. Leaders from nine ASEAN countries attended the previous dialogues and exchanged views with Chinese business representatives, making the dialogue a high-level platform for governments and the business community. The Lao leaders in Vientiane, Laos, who are going to attend the dialogue for the first time, will have a video conference and discuss concrete issues with Chinese business representatives in Nanning. This year’s Business Leaders Forum will focus on the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the China-ASEAN FTA and invite government officials, heads of chambers of commerce and industry, and business representatives from China and ASEAN countries to review progress in economic and trade cooperation since China-ASEAN FTA was fully established 10 years ago. They will explore the new normal imposed by the pandemic and new areas in post-COVID China-ASEAN FTA economic and trade cooperation, take a close look into how to further improve the China-ASEAN supply chains, deepen the digital economy and e-commerce cooperation, and help promote the building and upgrading of China-ASEAN FTA. In addition to the above activities,  we will hold three events—Symposium on China-ASEAN Business Law Cooperation, China-ASEAN Young Entrepreneur Forum, 2020 China- ASEAN High-tech Industry Cooperation and Development Conference in other time in light of the epidemic prevention and control situation.

The CAEXPO, committed to the overall epidemic prevention and control strategy focused on imported cases and rebound in local cases, will strengthen responsibilities of local governments, and formulate and implement an epidemic prevention and control work plan and emergency plan. At the same time, we will invite more representatives from the China offices of overseas chambers of commerce and industry and domestic buyers, and hold investment and trade promotion activities both online and offline in parallel. The upcoming CAEXPO will be a significant event held in the special year of COVID-19. All preparations are well under way.