The Honouvauble Qian Qichen
Vice-Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. It is a pleasure for me to be here this morning to chair the 9+1 Session between ASEAN and China. We are honoured to be the host to this important annual meeting which would provide us the opportunity to renew our acquaintances and work towards developing and strengthening ASEAN-China relations. On behalf of my ASFAN colleagues, I wish to extend my warmest welcome to you and your delegation.
2. I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our new ASEAN colleagues from Laos and Myanmar who are participating in our dialogue meeting this morning for the first time since joining ASEAN on 23 July 1997. Their participation would, no doubt, enrich our deliberations further.
3. Our meeting here today would also provide us with an opportunity to discuss regional and international issues of common interest to ASEAN and China as several developments have taken place in and around our region since our first dialogue meeting in Jakarta in 1996. For China, we have witnessed, on 1st July 1997, the historic return of Hong Kong to its sovereignty after being a British colony for more than 150 years. May we extend our congratulations to the Government and people of China for this historic occasion. For ASEAN, Mr- Co-Chairman, two new members, Laos and Myanmar – were formally admitted into the Association on 23rd July 1997. This was pursuant to the historic decision taken by the ASEAN leaders at their First Informal Summit in Jakarta last year to admit Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar into the Association.
4. We note, with satisfaction the further development of our dialogue relations. It has been a year since China became a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN and thus, part of the PMC process. Further, the ASEAN China Joint Cooperation Committee (ACJCC) has been established and had its first meeting in February 1997, in Beijing. We hope that the establishment of this Committee would further consolidate development and functional cooperation between the two sides. We are glad that the ACJCC had already identified 3 cooperation projects and that one of them – Exchanges of Official visit has been targeted for implementation in September 1997. We appreciate China’s contribution of US$ 700,000 to the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund and are confident that projects identified for fundings will be mutually beneficial to ASEAN Countries and China.
5. In the economic field, I am glad to note that trade and economic interactions have been expanding with an increase in the exchanges of trade delegations, and steady increase in the flow of goods and capital between China and the ASEAN member countries.
6. We are also encouraged to note that the business community from both ASEAN and China had the opportunity to meet and discuss at the First JCC Meeting, their future work plans and had agreed to the establishment of the ASEAN-China Business Council (ACBC). The formation of the ASEAN-China Business Council would serve to facilitate the economic interest of the business community of our two region. ASEAN hopes that the ACBC would be able to help in addressing the ASEAN-China trade imbalance which is currently in favour of China.
7. To enhance the ASEAN-China economic relations further, ASEAN would like to urge China to take further measures that would facilitate greater participation by ASEAN industrialists and investors in the development programmes of China. At the same time, ASEAN would also like to encourage increased participation of Chinese investors in our region, especially as ASEAN is presently advocating open trading among its partners with the reduction of tariffs rate under the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). In addition, ASFAN has also launched the ASEAN Industrial Cooperation (AICO) and the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) to promote ASEAN as the most attractive investment market which will further enhance ASEAN economic competitiveness. Individual ASEAN member countries too are providing attractive investment incentives and other forms of preferential treatment to foreign investors.
8. The ASEAN-Mekong Basin Development Programme (AMBDC) is another area open for ASEAN-China collaboration.
9. The ASEAN-PMC process, including this 9+1 and the ASEAN-China Senior Officials Consultations, have provided us with avenues to exchange views in an increasingly open manner. It is our hope that as the process develops and as we become more comfortable with each other, we should be able to address “sensitive’ regional issues in an increasingly substantive manner that would contribute to their final resolution. As you are aware, Mr. Co-Chairman, the unresolved territorial and maritime delimitation problems remain a source of concern to us in ASEAN. It is reassuring to know that the pass directly concerned are committed to resolving these problems peacefully, through negotiations, on the basis of international law. Pending resolution of the issues, the need to exercise self restraint cannot be over emphasized.
10. As you are already aware, 1997 marks the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN. In line with the decision of the First ASEAN Informal Summit in Jakarta in 1996, H.E. President Soeharto of Indonesia will launch the celebrations in Jakarta on 8 August 1997. The highest of the celebrations would be the convening of the Commemorative Summit on the occasion of the Second ASEAN Informal Summit in Kuala Lumpur on 14 – 16 December 1997. In this connection, ASFAN looks forward to the convening of the Summit Meetings between the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN and the Heads of State/Government of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea on the occasion of the Commemorative Summit. We view December gathering as a good opportunity for our leaders to exchange views on regional and international, as well as on challenges confronting our region in the 21st century.
11. I would like to conclude by welcoming you once again to this meeting. I am confident that our deliberation here this morning will be fruitful and enriching and would contribute to a further enhancement of the ASEAN-China relations.