By Xinhua writers Liu Lu, Liu Jie, Xiong Hongming
NANNING, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- A keynote speech by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the ninth China-ASEAN Expo has received enthusiastic responses at the event.
Xi's address on Friday urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to deepen economic ties, enhance people-to-people exchanges and resolve disputes via negotiations.
Delegates at the expo, which runs from Sept. 21 to 25 in Nanning, capital of southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Regions, have praised the comments, with many officials agreeing to further China-ASEAN economic ties and cultural exchanges.
FRUITFUL ACHIEVEMENTS FOR BOTH SIDES
Chua Thian Huat, president of Dragon Brand Birdnest Sdn Bhd, which sells birds' nests, expressed hope that his company's presence at the exhibition could bring more business partners and opportunities in China.
"China is the most important sales market, and we believe that cooperation between the ASEAN and China will get closer and benefit us more," Chua said, adding that Xi's speech has made businessmen like him from ASEAN nations more confident.
The vice president hailed the great success achieved in recent years and said that China and the ASEAN are good neighbors, and have complementary advantages and capacity for win-win cooperation.
According to Expo statistics, China-ASEAN bilateral trade surged from 7 billion U.S. dollars in the early days of dialogue relations to 362.8 billion last year, with an average annual growth of more than 20 percent.
China has been the ASEAN's largest trading partner for three consecutive years and the ASEAN has become China's third-largest trading partner.
In 2010, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA) was launched. Covering a total population of 1.9 billion, it became the developing world's largest FTA zone.
Lim Hong Hin, deputy secretary-general of the ASEAN, said that when the China-Asean FTA was first established, there were concerns from ASEAN members as to whether they could compete with such a big, resource-rich economy as China.
"But all these concerns proved unfounded because, as we progressed into negotiation and the FTA got implemented, there are many win-win scenarios between the ASEAN and China," he said.
"For the past two years, we have enjoyed a surplus since we actually import more to China than we import from China."
FURTHER TRADE AND RESOLVE DISPUTES WITH NEGOTIATION
Xi noted that China will always be a staunch force for peace and stability in the region and the world at large.
"We are firm in safeguarding China's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and are committed to resolving difference with neighbors concerning territorial land, territorial sea and maritime rights and interests peacefully through friendly negotiations," he added.
Xi also voiced his hopes on working more vigorously to develop the FTA, and that the two sides will continue to implement FTA agreements and optimize the mix of import and export commodities, in order to meet the trade volume target of 500 billion U.S. dollars by 2015.
Cham Prasidh, Cambodia's minister of commerce and ASEAN economic minister chair for 2012, said that Cambodia has witnessed a lot of trade between the two sides since the FTA's establishment.
"Over the past years, our leader has set a target that we have to be able to reach the level of two billion dollars, and in 2010, we have been able to surpass that two billion dollars.
"And now the leaders have decided to double the trade volume to five billion dollars by the year of 2017," he said, adding that the FTA will enable Cambodia to sell more duty-free products to China.
Li Guanghui, vice president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that China is developing economic ties with the principle of mutual benefits and tax reduction.
"We would like to shelve disputes on territorial and maritime rights and interests, and carry out peaceful development from the perspective of cooperation and negotiation," according to Li.
China has announced the creation of a new platform for tourism cooperation designed to raise the number of people engaged in two-way personnel exchange to 15 million by 2015.
A variety of youth exchanges and activities would also be carried out between the two sides, and both sides are working to implement the "Double 100,000 Students Mobility Program" that envisages 100,000 students from each side taking part in exchanges by 2020.
Cham Prasidh said that the leaders of Cambodia have decided to promote the partnership, including among government and business personnel and people-to-people levels.
"China is one of the major countries sending tourists to Cambodia, and Chinese businessmen are the major investors in Cambodia nowadays," he said.
Cambodia welcomes more students to visit and study in the country, while China is providing Cambodian students with a lot of scholarships to study in China, added the minister of commerce.
"We will take Xi's recommendation with this regard, and build up a working group to see how we can achieve that by 2015," vowed Lim Hong Hin.