RCEP TALKS (clockwise from top left) Secretary General of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ruben Pascual, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, President of the Federation of Philippine Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Dr Henry Lim Bon Liong, Manila Times columnist Ben Kritz and Times President and CEO Dante ‘Klink’ Ang 2nd, discuss at the Times forum, ‘China-Asean Relations: Realizing the Potential of RCEP’, held online on September 15, 2021. SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK LIVE

On Monday, the Chinese envoy to the Philippines praised Manila for its key role in strengthening Beijing’s ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“The progress of Sino-Asian relations and fruitful cooperation would not have been possible without the joint efforts of the ASEAN member states, among which the Philippines has worked closely with China and other parties and plays a constructive role in advancing relations between China and Asean, ”Ambassador Huang Xilian said at a forum hosted by The Manila Times.

“Benefiting from the development of Sino-Asian relations and under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and President Duterte, China and the Philippines have strengthened our ties towards comprehensive strategic cooperation. China has become the largest trading partner and the second largest foreign investor, as well as the second largest source of foreign tourists from the Philippines, ”he added.

ASEAN comprises 10 member states, including the Philippines.

Data from the Chinese Embassy showed that in the first quarter of this year, two-way trade reached $ 16.49 billion, and China’s non-financial direct investment in the Philippines was $ 27.36 million. dollars.

“The synergies between the Belt and Road initiative and the Build, Build, Build program which have strengthened our economic and commercial cooperation have gained stronger momentum,” said the Ambassador.

According to him, Sino-Asian relations have developed strongly over the past three decades.

“Among ASEAN’s dialogue partners, China has established a number of firsts: the first to accede to the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the first to establish a strategic partnership with the Asean, the first to discuss with Asean to establish a free trade area, the first to clearly express our clear support for ASEAN’s centrality in regional cooperation, and the first to publicly express its willingness to sign the protocol to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, ”he said.

Xilian said China has been Asean’s biggest trading partner in recent years.

He noted that in 2020, merchandise trade between China and Asia reached $ 684.6 billion. In the first half of the year, China-Asean trade amounted to $ 410.75 billion, up 38.2 percent year-on-year and accounting for about 14.7 percent of China’s total foreign trade.

Xilian said the crucial and timely signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is an example of the good relations between China and ASEAN.

“As the first participating non-ASEAN country after Singapore to officially complete the RCEP approval process, China has fully prepared to fulfill its obligations under the agreement,” Xilian said.

The RCEP, which includes 10 Southeast Asian economies with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, is the world’s largest trade pact in terms of gross domestic product ( GDP).

First proposed in 2012, the deal was sealed at the end of a summit in Southeast Asia in November last year. It will be implemented once ratified by the Member States.

“We will work with the Philippines and other member states to expedite the ratification processes for the entry into force and implementation of the agreement as planned,” the envoy said.

Xilian said that once implemented, RCEP should open a new chapter for Sino-Asian economic and trade relations.

“China and ASEAN could further optimize their results and business advantages through deep integration with the capital and technological advantages of other RCEP members on a larger scale and at a higher level. The RCEP could open up more promising prospects for our economic and trade cooperation and promote the post-Covid-19 economic recovery of China and ASEAN, ”he said.

“Second, we expect RCEP to add new vitality to East Asian economic integration. The agreement integrates and optimizes the region’s economic and trade tools in a wide range of areas, including goods, services, investments, intellectual property rights, e-commerce and competition policy, which will further promote the industrial chain, supply chain and value chain development in this region, ”he added.

He stressed that RCEP will also bring new tangible opportunities to the business community in the region, including creating favorable conditions for small and medium enterprises to enable them to better participate in regional economic and trade cooperation.

“China will work with ASEAN to further improve regional connectivity, create more dividends from the enhanced Chinese free trade area, and promote the early entry into force of RCEP. Efforts will also be made to develop new cooperation in areas such as the digital economy and strengthen cooperation for sustainable development, ”Xilian said.

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