Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister of Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Opening Ceremony of the China-ASEAN Expo on 16 September 2022.
Vice Premier Han Zheng,
Heads of Delegation of the ASEAN Member States,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to speak at the 19th China-ASEAN Expo.
We are meeting at a time of great uncertainty in global history.
First, COVID-19 remains a significant source of uncertainty and disruption.
Second, geopolitical tensions are rising at a worrying rate – in Europe, in Asia, and between major powers.
Third, climate change has become a much more urgent crisis, requiring greater collective global action.
Fourth, economic recovery has slowed, amidst rising energy prices and continued supply disruptions.
People are facing a diverse range of challenges and preoccupations, within each country and across the world.
To build a better shared future for all of humanity, we must strengthen cooperation, because no country can take on these challenges alone.
Hence, we must build more platforms for cooperation.
Platforms to channel our energies towards constructive relations and stronger cooperation. Platforms to build a shared future together, and to catalyse action towards this end.
The ASEAN-China partnership is one such platform.
Last year, we marked 30 years of ASEAN-China dialogue relations.
At the ASEAN-China Special Summit, ASEAN Leaders and President Xi Jinping announced the upgrade of ASEAN-China relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Economic cooperation is a key pillar of this strong partnership, as we work towards greater regional economic integration.
ASEAN and China are now each other’s top trading partner. Our regions are part of the RCEP, the largest trading block in the world.
We are working towards a new round of upgrades for the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, the cornerstone of our relations.
These efforts will boost our economies and create new opportunities for our workers and businesses.
But we can further strengthen this partnership. Let me offer two suggestions.
First, strengthening connectivity.
ASEAN and China can work together to harness the full potential of the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative-New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, which started as an initiative between Singapore and China.
By providing a direct connection between Western China and Southeast Asia through Guangxi’s Qinzhou Port, the Corridor benefits our regions.
As a multi-modal and multi-faceted economic link, the Corridor reduces time and costs for the movement of goods and provision of services, and also strengthens supply chain resilience.
During the pandemic, the Corridor has proven itself as a viable alternative to traditional trade routes, with cargo flows growing at 30% year-on-year in the first half of 2022.
Equally important is air connectivity. We should further liberalise the ASEAN-China Air Transport Agreement to support our civil aviation and tourism industries, as we emerge from the pandemic.
Second, building the future economy – digital and green.
The digital economy is a key building block for the future, while the pandemic is an opportunity for us to pursue a green recovery.
ASEAN and China have made good progress in these areas.
We recently approved the Action Plan on Implementing ASEAN-China Partnership on Digital Economy Cooperation, as well as the 2022 ASEAN-China Digital Work Plan.
ASEAN and China also issued the Joint Statement on Enhancing Green and Sustainable Development Cooperation last year.
These are important first steps to strengthen the foundations for developing a more digital and greener regional economy.
The China-ASEAN Expo is an important platform for ASEAN and China to not only explore new opportunities, but also deliberate on important economic developments in the years ahead.
This way, we will not only be able to face our common challenges head on, but also contribute to growth and prosperity in our regions and the world.
I wish the China-ASEAN Expo every success.
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