The China-ASEAN Exposition focuses on regional economic and trade cooperation and offers enormous opportunities for business communities from all over the world.
It has been built on the framework agreement on China-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation, to facilitate the construction of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and aims for mutual benefits and shared prosperity.
Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are the community groupings of ASEAN itself. Over the years, the group and China have continuously constructed trade and economic partnerships.
In November of last year, the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit concluded with major achievements. The China-ASEAN Expo is co-hosted by China's economic and trade authorities, 10 ASEAN countries, and the Secretariat of ASEAN.
It is an international economic and trade event being organized by the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR) of South China. It has been successfully conducted for 17 sessions to date, including this year, supporting and witnessing the China-ASEAN strategy. A Chinese Product Pavilion, ASEAN Pavilions, a special partner country, and an international "Belt and Road" country pavilion has been set up by CAEXPO this year.
The goal of the exhibition was to deepen cooperation in the areas of trade, the digital economy, science and technology, health and other fields, with the theme 'Building the Belt and Road, strengthening cooperation in the digital economy. In addition to demonstrating the achievements of China and ASEAN in improving business and investment cooperation over the last 17 years, the China-ASEAN Expo has also been an important force in supporting the construction of the BRI.
During his inspection in Guangxi, General Secretary Xi Jinping spoke highly of CAEXPO in April 2017. Xi said the partnership's connotations have been continually enriched, the degree of economic and trade cooperation has increased rapidly, and the people-to-people exchanges have become ever closer. They have played an important role in serving the construction of the "Belt and Road".
China-ASEAN Expo is especially important this year because it is the first collaboration between ASEAN countries and Chinese businessmen since the signing of the RCEP agreement, covering a market of 2.2 billion people and a total output of $26.2 trillion, which accounts for about 30 percent of the world's population, as well as the global economy.
On 15 November 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed after eight years of negotiations. Of the $2.3 trillion in goods flowing between RCEP signatories in 2019, 83 percent moved between those already holding a trade agreement, according to The Economist. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a free trade arrangement between the Asia-Pacific countries of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, initiated by Indonesia.
Proposed in 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road Initiative of the 21st Century seek to develop trade and infrastructure networks on and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes linking Asia to Europe and Africa. For several ASEAN countries, China is ASEAN's biggest trading partner and the top source of imports. With the establishment of initiatives such as the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, trade and economic cooperation between China and ASEAN is expected to move forward further. Chin Yew Sin, an adviser for the Asia-Pacific region of the Global One Belt One Road Association, said ASEAN countries have been working with China as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
At the opening ceremony of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China ASEAN Business and Investment President Xi Jinping said the two sides enjoy growing connectivity, deepening economic integration, robust business ties and closer people-to-people exchanges. Xi cites ASEAN as a key region in high-quality Belt and Road collaboration in his speech. According to the expo's secretariat, this year's expo has achieved good results conducive to moving forward the progress of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and deepening cooperation between participating countries.
A strategic cooperation framework agreement was signed during the expo between several logistics companies along the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor to speed up the BRI's growth. The New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor is a trade and logistics passage jointly built by western Chinese provincial regions and ASEAN member states. It acts as a connection between the Economic Belt of the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century.
A total of 86 investment projects worth 263.87 billion yuan (around 40.1 billion U.S. dollars) were signed at the four-day event, an annual increase of 43.6 percent, according to data released by the expo's secretariat at the closing ceremony. The investment projects in the fields of health, big data, logistics, new manufacturing, new materials, new energy, and finance, accounted for 85.3 percent of the total. This year's expo set up 5,400 booths for 1,668 enterprises, including Fortune 500 and industry-leading companies. Moreover, 1,956 enterprises from home and abroad participated virtually in the event. During the expo, more than 150 trade and investment promotion events were held online as well as offline. This year's expo featured an exhibition area with 108 companies from 22 nations, mainly BRI participating countries, including Pakistan, Iran, France, Italy and Russia.
In the past year, under the impact of the global epidemic, in the face of the complicated international economic situation, the Chinese economy grew against the trend and became the world's only major economy to achieve positive economic growth. In 2020, the overall volume of China's import and export trade in goods was RMB 32.16 trillion, an increase of 1.9 percent over 2019, according to customs statistics. Among them, exports were 17.93 trillion Yuan, a 4 percent increase; imports were 14.23 trillion Yuan, a 0.7 percent decrease; the trade surplus was 3.7 trillion Yuan, a 27.4 percent increase. In terms of trade, China-ASEAN bilateral trade volume has more than doubled from $292.8 billion in 2010 to $641.5 billion in 2019. In terms of investment, there was a total of $223 billion in two-way investment between China and ASEAN by the end of 2019, a substantial increase from before the Free Trade Area was created. It is a great sign of trade and economic cooperation between China and ASEAN.
China-ASEAN Expo is providing the impetus to aid the economic recovery of countries along with the Belt and Road (B&R) Countries for improving Comprehensive Economic Cooperation. It also creates economic growth opportunities for enterprises in these fields at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to uncertainty and challenges.
Despite the progress we have made in globalization before, COVID-19 has shown us how fragile it may be in terms of the interconnectivity of our planet. Global governance and better international order are required to get back on track with globalization again. Support for globalization has already been demonstrated by China. The exhibition not only helps to resume work and development in B&R countries but also makes it possible for businesses to pursue new directions in the industry.
Mohammad Saiyedul Islam is a doctoral fellow in the School of International Trade and Economics at Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, China.