‘Asean potential largely untapped’

 China’s ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.  PHOTO Bong Ranes

China’s ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
PHOTO Bong Ranes

China envoy shares ambitious economic goals with business forum delegates

TRADE and investment ties between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) may have grown in scope over the years, but the potential from deeper cooperation between them has remained “far from being fully exploited,” China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, said.

In a presentation to delegates of The Manila Times’ business forum on the Asean integration at the Dusit Thani hotel in Makati on Wednesday, Ambassador Zhao highlighted Asean’s importance to China in trade and cross-border investment, and revealed a number of ambitious medium-term trade and investment goals set by Beijing.

According to statistics presented by the ambassador, the Asean collectively was China’s third largest trade partner in 2014, with exports from the region growing 4.4 percent to $208.3 billion, while Chinese exports to Asean expanded 11.4 percent year-on-year to reach $271.8 billion.

Overall, the Asean region accounted for 11 percent of China’s overall trade in 2014, behind only the European Union’s 14 percent, and the US’ 13 percent share.

In terms of cross-border investment, Asean’s foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in China reached $91.7 billion, about 12 percent of the total FDI in China, making the region the third biggest foreign investor in China (that is for what period?). In 2014, Asean investors poured $6.3 billion into China, exceeding Chinese investment in Asean, which reached $5.88 billion.

Asean investment in China in 2014 actually dropped significantly from the $8.4 billion in FDI in 2013, a decline traced to a slowdown in manufacturing “caused by China’s efforts in restructuring [and]upgrading its industries.”

China’s regional investment is too low
In spite of the current lucrative economic ties, Ambassador Zhao said that given the Asean’s population of more than 600 million, China’s overseas direct investment (ODI) was far too low, which has led Beijing to adopt a number of “general goals for future development” ahead of the formal launch of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) at the end of this year.

In trade and investment, China is seeking to increase the total two-way trade volume with the Asean to $500 billion by the end of 2015, and to $1 trillion by the end of 2020.

Two-way investment, which stands at just over $12 billion per year now, is expected to rise to $150 billion annually by 2020.

The ‘right partner’
Other targets set by Beijing include accumulated Chinese ODI of $1.25 trillion within the next 10 years; accumulated imports into China over the next five years of $10 trillion; and a cumulative total of 500 million outbound Chinese tourists by 2020.

“Asean would be the right partner for China to cooperate with for realizing [these]targets,” Zhao said.

“As a good friend and good partner, China will continue to give firm support to a stronger Asean, the building of the Asean Community, and Asean centrality in the regional cooperation of East Asia,” Zhao concluded.


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