Beijing, 16 December 2011

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It may be the first ever China-ASEAN economic forum, but organisers and participants agree that the rapidly growing economic ties between the two dynamic regions, make it imperative that ASEAN and China stay engaged at the highest levels – and regularly.

“China and ASEAN are good friends, good neighbours, and good partners,” noted Mr Guo Jinlong, Mayor of Beijing, in his opening speech at the frst China-ASEAN Bejing Economic Forum or CABEF. “Both sides have devoted their time and energy in economic development, peace and prosperity to raise the livelihood of their people. And going by the fruits brought by development, China will continue to open up to the world,” he added.

Noting that ASEAN and China have a proven track record of growing and developing together, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, pointed out that as the cultural, political and economic centre of China, ASEAN’s link with Beijing has special significance.

“A Forum like CABEF shows the connections between the two at the highest levels. And it also reflects the mutual importance and the good relations,” he said.

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Total trade between ASEAN and China have grown very rapidly ovetr the past two decades. ASEAN has already surpassed Japan as China’s third largets trading partner – after the US and EU, while China has secured itself as ASEAN’s largest trading partner for two years running.

According to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, total bilateral trade had crossed US$350 billion. Some analysts from China and ASEAN are quietly confident that the Premier’s target of achieving US$500 billion in total trade in 2015, may even be achieved ahead of time.

“The two sides can depend on growing integration to achieve that target, and given the international uncertainties today, the two sides must depend on each other for better synergy,” said a participant at the forum. And an important source which could help this further, is the Chinese Diaspora .

A good example of this is Dr Chanchai, Ruarrungruang, Chairman of the Reignwood Group – a key sponsor of CABEF.

“I am nurtured by the waters of Huang He (the Yellow River), while I grew up with the waters of the Mekong,” said Dr Chanchai, who is also known as Yen Ping to his friends. He left China in the 1970s, and headed to Thailand, where he grew his business conglomerate.

He added that he owed his fortunes to both China and Thailand, and he is obliged “to bring about the integration of China and ASEAN, for the good of the people. ”

The success of the inaugural edition of CABEF has already prompted both sides to make the Forum an annual affair. Beijing officials have promised to study the lessons learnt from this Forum, to help them prepare for next year’s session.

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“The CABEF should certainly be an annual event, but I do hope we can hold it earlier next year, as Beijing gets really cold in December,” said Dr Surin, to laughter and nods of support.

Co-hosted by the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality; the ASEAN Secretariat; and the ASEAN-China Centre, CABEF is co-organised by the Foreign Affairs Office of Beijing Municipal Government; the Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce; the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Investment Promotion; the Administrative Committee of Zhongguancun Science Park; the Beijing Federation of Industry & Commerce; and the Beijing Sub-council of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

The CABEF was held at the Reignwood Theatre in Beijing. It was attended by more than a hundred business and government leaders from China and ASEAN.