MANILA-- Concerns on China's moves to increase its territory remain an issue but Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan said the relationship between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China continues to improve.
ASEAN-China relations are in a positive direction. A positive trajectory, Balakrishnan said in his speech during the ASEAN-China Ministerial meeting held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) Sunday.
Dialogue relations between the 10-country regional block and the world's second largest economy started in 1991 while the two formalized their strategic partnership in 2003.
Team-up between ASEAN and China hinges on strong trade and economic ties, Balakrishnan said, citing that the relationship is substantive, multifaceted and mutually-beneficial.
And this is a relationship that is growing from strength to strength with each passing year, he said.
The Singaporean Foreign Affairs chief said China is ASEAN's largest trading partner in the last seven years and the two have committed to realize the twin goals of hitting a USD 1 trillion trade and USD 150 billion investment goals by 2020.
There's really not much time to achieve this, he said, but noted the initiative to have the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) approved to further boost trading and investments.
RCEP is a 16-nation proposed free trade pact eyed to further strengthen ASEAN markets, namely the Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and its major trading partners China, South Korea, Australia, India, Japan, and New Zealand.
It was launched in November 2012 and targeted to cover trade-in goods and services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights, competition policy, and dispute settlement, among others.
It is seen as a good platform for the region to negotiate with other regional blocks.
ASEAN and China continue to embrace a multilateral and free trade global economic system. And given the state of the world today, I think the fact that ASEAN and China still remain totally committed to free trade and closer economic integration is noteworthy, Balakrishnan said.
ASEAN and China have agreed to declare 2017 as the year of tourism in the region and in China to further promote inter-cultural understanding among its people.
Balakrishnan said the two are also formulating a joint statement, seen to be issued during the 28th ASEAN-China Summit in November this year, to further uplift tourism cooperation.
In addition, ASEAN and China are constantly looking for new areas of cooperation and one area which we are currently exploring is improving connectivity and achieving greater synergy between ASEAN's master plan for ASEAN connectivity and China's Belt and Road initiative, he said.
We also look forward to meeting of minds on other areas of cooperation such as innovation and technology, he added.
Source: Philippines News Agency