Your Excellency Tang Jiaxuan
Minister of Foreign Affairs Of the People’s Republic of China
Your Excellency Ali Alatas
Minister for Foreign Affairs Of the Republic of Indonesia
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency and members of your delegation to this annual PMC session between ASEAN and China. Allow me also to welcome my distinguished colleague, His Excellency Ali Alatas, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, as the In-Coming Country Coordinator for the ASEAN-China Dialogue, as well as the other ASEAN delegates who are joining us in our deliberations today.
In the short span of time since ASEAN and China formally established Dialogue relations in 1996, we have made remarkable progress in several areas. China’s commitment to development cooperation with ASEAN is demonstrated in the number of projects implemented under the Dialogue. To-date, China has contributed US$500,000, out of the US$700,000 pledged, to the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund which had financed many mutually beneficial programmes. The ASEAN-China Economic and Trade Seminar held under the ASEAN-China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), was successfully held from 25-28 January this year in Beijing. The participation of representatives from both the public and private sectors of ASEAN and China facilitated networking between both sides. This would surely contribute further towards enhancing ASEAN-China trade relations. As a result of the success of the Economic and Trade Seminar, the ASEAN-China JCC has now taken a decision to hold another similar seminar again next year.
The 2nd ASEAN-China JCC was also convened from 17-18 March 1999 in Kuala Lumpur. The Meeting agreed to implement several new projects besides considering new proposals for future cooperation between ASEAN and China in the areas of trade, investment and high-tech cooperation. We are pleased that Malaysia, China, together with the ASEAN Secretariat, would be meeting again next month to discuss further the project proposals and matters pertaining to development cooperation between both sides.
Trade between ASEAN and China has also been growing significantly in recent years. In 1998, ASEAN’s exports (excluding Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) to China reached US$9.428 billion, an increase of more than 100% over the 1993 figure of US$4.52 billion. In the same period, ASEAN’s imports from China (excluding Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) also increased by nearly 170% from US$4.34 billion in 1993 to US$11.65 billion in 1998. Even though the figures are impressive, there is still room for further improvement. In 1998, ASEAN’s exports to China accounted for only 3% of its global exports while China’s exports to ASEAN accounted for only 4.3% of ASEAN’s global imports. Being trading nations, ASEAN countries and China should together continue to find ways to expand our trade, including efforts to engage in barter trade.
In the field of investment, official Chinese data showed that ASEAN’s investments in China in 1996 reached US$3.18 billion. On the other hand, Chinese investments in ASEAN is still small and could be increased if serious efforts are undertaken by both sides. On our part, ASEAN has enhanced, in its Hanoi Plan of Action and the Statement of Bold Measures, the incentives and privileges in various schemes, namely, the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) and ASEAN Industrial Cooperation (AICO).
We believe that both sides should also explore other areas of cooperation that could be promoted. We in ASEAN are particularly interested to learn from China’s impressive development in science and technology. In this regard, I have been informed that the 2nd ASEAN-China Joint Science and Technology Committee Meeting will be convened next year.
The greatest challenge which confronted ASEAN in the last two years was the regional financial and economic crisis, the greatest impact of which was felt in 1998. However, I am optimistic that now the worst is almost over. Signs of economic recovery are emerging and business confidence is returning to the region. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate ASEAN’s appreciation to China for keeping its promise not to devalue its currency despite the tremendous pressures and difficulties faced by China. This had contributed significantly to maintaining stability in the region’s currencies and assisted ASEAN in its recovery efforts. China had also participated in international efforts, through the IMF, thereby also facilitating ASEAN’s economic recovery. Also, China’s stimulation of its economy through massive infrastructure development programmes will provide ample opportunities for ASEAN countries to benefit from trade with and investments in China.
There were concerns expressed about China’s sincerity in assisting ASEAN. These concerns are baseless. As we have seen, China stood by ASEAN throughout the whole recent turbulent period. China had also initiated the meeting of the ASEAN+3 Deputy Finance Ministers and Deputy Governors of Central Banks that met in April this year in Manila to help find common short-and long-term solutions, including reform of the international financial architecture. By its actions, China has, indeed, proved to be a real friend of ASEAN in times of need.
May I also take this opportunity to invite China to participate and cooperate with ASEAN in the implementation of the Hanoi Plan of Action (HPA) which is aimed at achieving ASEAN’s Vision 2020. The HPA, a six -year plan, which outlines 10 broad areas including finance, economy, science and technology, security and environment, offers an excellent opportunity for cooperation between ASEAN and China. To highlight the HPA to our Dialogue partners and other donor organisations, ASEAN launched the ASEAN Development Cooperation Forum (ADCF) in May this year in Jakarta. 64 different projects were identified and presented during the Forum. We in ASEAN welcome China’s active participation in these projects. China’s technological expertise and know-how in specific areas would help ASEAN tremendously in realising its Vision 2020.
The economic recovery efforts of ASEAN countries would not have achieved positive results if not for the relative peace and stability that ASEAN was able to sustain in the region. This is no minor feat. It is a testimony of the depth of ASEAN’s strength, solidarity and maturity.
ASEAN remains committed to ensuring that the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) continues to play a leading role in promoting peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. We are ready to cooperate closely with China in developing the concept and principles of Preventive Diplomacy at the ISG on CBMs (Intersessional Working Group on Confidence Building Measures) as agreed at the ARF. ASEAN welcomes China’s unwavering support for ASEAN to be the driving force in the ARF process and looks forward to continue working closely with China.
While there has been significant progress in ASEAN-China Dialogue relations, there is always room for improvement. An enduring solution to the sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea still needs to be found. In the meantime, it is comforting to note that all the concerned parties remain committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes, as expressed in the Joint Statement of the Meeting of the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN and China in December 1997 in Kuala Lumpur and the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea. Further, as China is a party direcly involved, ASEAN countries wish to work closely with China in developing a regional code of conduct for the South China Sea.
ASEAN looks forward to China being among the first Nuclear Weapon States to sign the Protocol to the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. In this regard, we hope that the revised ASEAN formulation on the subject has helped to overcome the gap between us.
ASEAN also appreciates China’s positive attitude vis-a-vis the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and looks forward to China being among the first Dialogue partners to accede to the Treaty. ASEAN would be happy to further exchange views and information with China or this subject to facilitate China’s early accession to the Treaty when ASEAN has finalised its position on the various issues raised by China.
ASEAN intends to convene the ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+1 Summits in November 1999 in Manila in conjunction with the 3rd ASEAN Informal Summit. We look forward to China’s participation at the level of the Head of State/Government at this very strategic and useful meeting involving the East Asian countries.
In concluding this Statement, permit me, on behalf of ASEAN, to reiterate our appreciation to China for being sensitive and responsive to ASEAN’s needs in times of difficulties. With signs of economic recovery in the region, I am confident that the content at the ASEAN-China Dialogue would be further intensified. Today’s session, being the last PMC in this century is certainly timely and meaningful for us to provide the direction for the ASEAN-China Dialogue into the 21st century.