Bandar Seri Begawan, 9 October 2013
Your Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam,
Good afternoon. I am delighted to join you in the beautiful city of Bandar Seri Begawan. His Majesty Sultan has attended the ASEAN-China Summit many times and put in tremendous efforts in promoting ASEAN's cooperation with China. I wish to thank His Majesty Sultan and the government of Brunei for the meticulous preparation and thoughtful arrangements for this meeting. As for me, this is my first time to attend the meeting and I look forward to an in-depth exchange of views with all friends present, old and new, on the future course of our cooperation.
The year 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership. Over the past decade, China-ASEAN relations have achieved robust growth and our cooperation has made remarkable progress. We have deepened political mutual trust, supported each other on many major international and regional affairs, and maintained good-neighborliness and harmonious coexistence. We have significantly advanced our practical cooperation. From 2002 to 2012, two-way trade grew at an average annual rate of 23.6%, reaching US$400 billion. Mutual investment increased 3.4 times, totaling over US$100 billion. China is now ASEAN's biggest trading partner and ASEAN China's third largest trading partner. China and ASEAN have established the world's largest free trade area among developing countries. We have increased our people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and deepened cooperation in areas relating to people's livelihood and the development of social programs. Last year, 9.69 million Chinese tourists traveled to ASEAN countries. In the face of the international financial crisis and major natural disasters, we stood alongside each other and worked closely together. This has enhanced the public support for our cooperation.
Over the past decade, East Asia has grown with strong momentum despite the ups and downs in the international environment. The key to fruitful China-ASEAN cooperation lies in mutual trust, pragmatism and inclusiveness. Such cooperation, in essence, serves our common interests and complies with the trend of the times toward peace, development and cooperation. In today's world, countries, more than ever before, need to have a peaceful and stable external environment. They need to push forward one's own development through closer cooperation, view each other with a long-term perspective, and work jointly like one big family for their common future. To this end, I believe we need to further intensify the following two points of consensus:
First, deeper strategic mutual trust and good-neighborly relations is fundamental to closer cooperation. Amidst great changes in the international situation in the last 20-plus years since the end of the Cold War, East Asia has been able to seize the opportunity for development and enjoyed rapid growth. The most important reason is that we have jointly maintained peace and stability in this region. Without a secure environment, economic prosperity cannot sustain; and without mutual trust, win-win cooperation can hardly go any further. China will, as always, pursue the foreign policy of building friendship and partnership with its neighbors, resolve differences through friendly consultation and dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and equality, and support ASEAN's centrality in East Asia cooperation. We are ready to share weal and woe and grow together with ASEAN. If I could compare China-ASEAN cooperation to a fine piece of silk, then China and ASEAN would be the vertical thread and horizontal thread on the loom that have to be interwoven by the "shuttle" of mutual trust. That is how we can make sure that the piece of silk, when finished, could really shine with grandeur and splendor.
The situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and the differences that exist will not and should not affect the overall China-ASEAN relations. Disputes in the South China Sea should be addressed through consultation and negotiation between parties directly concerned. China and ASEAN countries should work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and jointly foster a favorable environment for peaceful settlement of the disputes. Pending a peaceful settlement, China maintains that parties to the dispute should work actively for joint development. There is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and the safety of navigation in the South China Sea is assured. Each year, over 100,000 cargo ships from various countries sail across this area smoothly. China will continue to work with other countries in the region to uphold the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea.
The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), as an important political agreement reached among China and ASEAN countries, constitutes the cornerstone for peace and stability in the South China Sea. Last month, the Senior Officials' Meeting and Joint Working Group Meeting for the implementation of the DOC were successfully held in Suzhou, China. China will work with ASEAN countries to vigorously promote practical maritime cooperation in the process of full and effective implementation of the DOC. China will continue to have consultations with ASEAN countries on formulating a code of conduct in the South China Sea (COC) under the framework of implementing the DOC, and will work with ASEAN countries to advance the formulation process of the COC in an active and prudent manner under the principle of consensus building. A tranquil South China Sea is a blessing for all, while a turbulent one benefits no one. We need to work together to make it a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.
Second, focusing on economic development and expanding win-win results is crucial to deeper cooperation. China and ASEAN are both in a crucial period of development. With a combined population of 1.9 billion, we enjoy a huge market and tremendous development potential. To enhance business cooperation and draw on each other's strengths has become the choice for China and ASEAN countries to overcome obstacles on the way ahead and promote common development. What we need to do is to take further actions and achieve a few more major results to bring our practical cooperation to a new level. China will give strong support to the development of the GMS and BIMP-EAGA, so as to narrow the development gap between ASEAN countries and promote ASEAN Community building. The recent volatility in the financial markets of some Southeast Asian countries has not been followed by a new round of crisis. This is attributable to the efforts of these countries in economic reform, structural adjustment and financial supervision, and to their communication, coordination and cooperation in the financial and other fields. We should continue to uphold our common interests and make the dividends of our cooperation reach our people in a most extensive way.
The China-ASEAN relationship has become a mature one and China-ASEAN cooperation has entered the fast track of development. We need to seize the opportunities to further elevate our cooperation. To this end, and on the basis of the above-mentioned two points of political consensus, I wish to make a seven-point proposal on building a framework for wide-ranging, in-depth, high-level and all-round China-ASEAN cooperation in the next decade.
First, we need to actively discuss the possibility of concluding a treaty on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation between China and ASEAN countries. Good-neighborliness and friendship are a treasure for China-ASEAN cooperation to which we all need to remain truly committed. The new Chinese government attaches great importance to ASEAN and takes ASEAN as a priority on its diplomatic agenda regarding the neighborhood. We should plant more flowers, not thorns, in our relations and always be good neighbors, good friends and good partners. During the Special China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting held recently, the two sides discussed the possibility of concluding a treaty on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation between China and ASEAN countries. Smooth progress of this process will reflect our confidence and resolve for jointly upholding peace and stability in the region, including in the South China Sea, and for deepening mutually beneficial cooperation. If consensus could be reached and the treaty finally signed, it will provide legal and institutional safeguards for China-ASEAN strategic cooperation, and will become a banner guiding the development of China-ASEAN relations.
Second, we need to start negotiations on an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA). China suggests to launch negotiations as soon as possible on an upgraded CAFTA. We will encourage both sides to take more steps to open up such areas as trade in goods, trade in services and investment cooperation so as to further advance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. We will endeavor to raise two-way trade to US$1 trillion by 2020, and enable ASEAN countries to benefit even more from regional integration and China's economic growth. In the coming eight years, China will import as much as three trillion US dollars of goods from ASEAN and invest over US$100 billion in ASEAN countries. The Chinese government supports Hong Kong in conducting FTA negotiations with ASEAN as a separate customs territory. China also stands ready to work with ASEAN to advance negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to deepen economic integration of our region.
Third, we need to expedite the development of infrastructural connectivity. Better connectivity contributes to regional trade facilitation and helps expand trade bilaterally and multilaterally. We should make good use of such mechanisms as the China-ASEAN Committee on Connectivity Cooperation and China-ASEAN Transport Ministers' Meeting to make better planning and identify and launch landmark collaborative projects on connectivity building as soon as possible. China will work with other parties to jointly advance the flagship project of the Pan-Asia Railway network and hopes to see early start of its construction. To meet the financing needs of some regional countries to upgrade infrastructure, China will continue to make proper use of the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund and provide special loans. At the same time, China proposes that an Asian infrastructure investment bank be set up, and welcomes ASEAN countries to play an active part in it. With an open approach, the bank aims to pool collective efforts to raise our financing capacity and will give priority to transport, energy, communication and other infrastructure projects in countries of the region.
Fourth, we need to step up regional financial cooperation and risk prevention. China will work with other countries in the region and take more effective measures to tackle regional and international financial risks. China suggests that we increase the size and scope of bilateral local currency swap, expand the pilot program of settling cross-border trade with local currencies to reduce the exchange rate risks and settlement costs of intra-regional trade and investment, and fully leverage the role of the China-ASEAN Inter-bank Association. We need to strengthen cooperation on the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization and move speedily to improve the operational procedures for the US$240 billion foreign exchange reserve pool. China is ready to provide facilitation to the monetary authorities and other institutions of ASEAN countries to invest in China's bond market. We also need to vigorously explore and formulate a roadmap for future regional financial cooperation and endeavor to forge an Asia currency stability system, an Asia credit system and an Asia investment and financing cooperation system.
Fifth, we need to steadily advance maritime cooperation. This is a major undertaking, and both sides need to take active steps to advance our maritime partnership and jointly build the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century. China has set up a RMB3 billion China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund and welcomes project proposals from ASEAN countries. The first group of 17 approved projects are aimed to support cooperation over marine economy, maritime connectivity, marine environmental protection and scientific research, and maritime search and rescue. Fishery cooperation should be given priority, as it benefits our people directly and helps to maintain stability. China supports the holding of a China-ASEAN marine cooperation forum in Indonesia this coming November.
Sixth, we need to strengthen exchange and cooperation in the security field. China proposes that the mechanism of ASEAN-China Defense Ministers' Meeting be improved and regular dialogues on regional security issues be held. China welcomes ASEAN defense ministers to visit China at an appropriate time and hold a special China-ASEAN defense ministers' meeting. The two sides may also deepen cooperation in disaster prevention and relief, cyber security, combating transnational crimes, joint law enforcement and other non-traditional security fields. China proposes that a plan of action be formulated on China-ASEAN disaster relief cooperation, and that contact be strengthened with the ASEAN Coordination Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management. China will provide RMB50 million for cooperation on disaster prevention and relief. China is ready to establish a dialogue and exchange mechanism between the maritime law enforcement agencies of the two sides and conduct personnel training and joint patrol with ASEAN countries.
Seventh, we need to intensify cultural, scientific, technological, environmental and people-to-people exchanges. The roots of friendship and cooperation lie in the people. We will jointly formulate an action plan for China-ASEAN cultural cooperation and ensure the success of activities during the 2014 year of China-ASEAN cultural exchange. In the next three to five years, China will provide ASEAN countries 15,000 government scholarships and build more education centers catered to ASEAN countries in China. China will contribute RMB200 million to the Asia Regional Cooperation Fund to mainly finance people-to-people exchange between the two sides and capacity building. China will continue to support the development of such platforms as the China-ASEAN Center, China-ASEAN Think Tank Network and China-ASEAN Public Health Cooperation Fund, and advance exchanges in culture and education and between youth, think tanks and media organizations, so as to build strong popular support for our cooperation. China will continue to implement the China-ASEAN Scientific and Technological Partnership Program, set up a China-ASEAN Science and Technology Innovation Center, and bolster cooperation in new energy and other areas. China will also put forward an initiative for cooperation between Chinese and ASEAN environmental industries, and establish a China-ASEAN demonstration base for cooperation and exchanges on environment-related technologies and between relevant industries. China and ASEAN countries are home to eastern civilizations and we have confidence in creating new highlights in our cooperation.
The two points of political consensus and seven cooperation proposals I have just outlined can be summarized as a "2+7 cooperation framework". It demonstrates the political commitment of the current Chinese government towards the future development of China-ASEAN relations. The essence is to increase political trust between China and ASEAN, deepen all-round cooperation and promote common development, so that China-ASEAN relations will benefit the people of our two sides and contribute more to peace, stability and prosperity of the region and beyond.
China-ASEAN relations enjoy a deep foundation and strong bonds; China-ASEAN cooperation promises tremendous potential and broad prospects. People say that the future of the world lies in the Asia-Pacific and the prosperity of the Asia-Pacific hinges on East Asia. The historical window of opportunity is open right in front of us: seizing it, we will accomplish greater development; missing it, we risk falling behind. China wants to be ASEAN's partner and friend forever. Through sincere cooperation, we will make even greater contribution to Asia and the world.