PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 11th China-ASEAN EXPO Opening Ceremony

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 16 September 2014

Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 11th China-ASEAN EXPO Opening Ceremony on 16 September 2014.


Your Excellency, Zhang Gaoli Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China

Your Excellency, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia

Distinguished Heads of Delegation of the ASEAN Member States

Your Excellency, Mr Peng Qinghua, Party Secretary of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

Your Excellency, Mr Chen Wu, Chairman of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am very honoured to be here for the 11th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO). Having last attended the 3rd China-ASEAN Expo in 2006, I am very happy to see how the CAEXPO has grown in scale. I am also delighted to see how much Nanning has developed and changed in the last eight years.

The global economy is not in a very robust condition. Recovery from the global financial crisis has been slow and uncertain. Monetary conditions are still abnormally slack. The US recovery continues but slowly, and meanwhile, the Eurozone is facing low growth and a risk of deflation, as well as deep structural issues.

Fortunately, Asia has remained a resilient engine of growth. And a significant part of this growth can be attributed to China’s economic dynamism and the regional integration and cooperation between ASEAN and China. In this regard, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) plays an important role. Since the FTA was signed in 2005, nearly ten years ago, trade between China and ASEAN has grown by almost three times. And ASEAN is now China’s third largest trading partner. More importantly, Asia’s growth has benefitted millions of people in ASEAN and in China, as jobs have been created, workers’ incomes have risen, and standards of living have improved.

Singapore has benefitted from Asia’s growth. Our bilateral trade with China has grown more than 20 times in a quarter century, from US$4.2 billion in 1990 to US$92 billion last year. And last year, China became Singapore’s largest trading partner, while Singapore was China’s 2nd largest trading partner in ASEAN. Singapore was China’s top foreign investor last year, and the year before that, in 2012, Singapore was China’s 5th largest investment destination. Over 5,200 Chinese companies have set up shop in Singapore. The economic ties between Singapore and China are very significant and are growing.

While China’ economy will experience ups and downs, I expect China to grow strongly over the next decade and beyond, as it implements needed economic and social reforms. This can only be positive for our region, because it will create more opportunities for win-win cooperation and greater prosperity for all.

Therefore, I am happy that we are setting bold goals for the second decade of ASEAN-China cooperation. We aim to increase two-way trade to half a trillion dollars by 2015 and US$1 trillion by 2020, and we aim to increase mutual investment by US$150 billion by 2020.

China has proposed several new initiatives to further promote ASEAN-China economic cooperation, including upgrading the ASEAN-China FTA, setting up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and promoting the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Vice Premier Zhang mentioned some of these initiatives just now. Singapore welcomes these initiatives and looks forward to working with China to developing the details.

We appreciate China’s efforts, systematically to develop its cooperation with ASEAN and with the ASEAN member countries in many areas. I hope we can keep the momentum on regional integration up, even as we manage frictions and issues that arise from time to time, between China and ASEAN countries. We should keep difficult problems in perspective, and not let disputes over-shadow the positives of ASEAN-China cooperation.

We should also see the ASEAN-China relationship in the context of growing interdependence and integration in the Asia Pacific. Today, a lot of ASEAN-China trade is in intermediate goods, goods which go into final products which are subsequently exported to third country markets, for example to the US, or to Europe.  Therefore, just as ASEAN-China trade grows, so does the Trans-Pacific trade. In particular, both the China-US trade and the ASEAN-US trade are growing. Asian countries are also actively promoting economic ties with one another, and also with other parts of the world.

Therefore I am glad that under China’s chairmanship of APEC this year, we will be discussing how we can realise a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), by building on the FTAs which are currently being negotiated, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which China is party to, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) would further integrate the global value chain in the Asia-Pacific region, and promote a more efficient flow of goods, services and people.

So I would like to thank our hosts for your very generous hospitality. I hope we will continue to grow the win-win partnership with China to promote closer ASEAN-China ties, and take our cooperation to the next level.

Thank you very much.

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