Recovery at hand as China, ASEAN growing economically closer

19:48, October 22, 2009      

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As a Vietnamese furniture dealer, Huang Yifan has found her fifth trip to the annual China-ASEAN Expo rewarding and worthwhile.

Her booth, located in the Vietnam Hall, was swarmed with customers and clients from the beginning of the day, which had brought her orders of over 200,000 yuan (about 29,283 U.S. dollars) in a single day.

The Expo, the 6th since 2004, is held here from Oct. 20 to 24 in Nanning, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, attracting both high ranking officials and businessmen from the 10ASEAN countries here to seek cooperation and business opportunities.

"The Chinese market is so big and attractive, and the Expo is truly a good chance for us to know more clients from China," she said.

The conversation was forced to interrupt from time to time as she had to get up and greet the flooding customers.

Huang's company, the Vietnam Charity Trading Company Limited, has kept commercial contracts with China for over 22 years and witnessed increasing exports.

"Our business has been booming even in time of the deepest financial crisis, and the export volume of our company has trippled since we attended the Expo five years ago," she said.

"Each month we sell 70 percent of our products to China and make about four million yuan out of it," she added.

Huang is one of the business people who had benefited from the deepening trade ties between China and ASEAN members. For them, China is an open market with tremendous hope and potential, especially when European and American market demand weakened amid the economic crisis.

And in turn, booming trade between China and ASEAN had provided power to the regional economy to rein in the downward trend.

"China has become a major destination for Malaysia's exports, which had greatly helped lifting Asia's economy in times of crisis," said Malaysia's Deputy Finance Minister Chor Chee Heung during the Expo.

For Malaysia, the country's economy contracted slower at a rate of 3.9 percent year on year in the second quarter of 2009, compared with the contraction of 6.2 percent in the previous quarter.

Chor Chee Heung noted that China's four-trillion-yuan stimulus package, which aimed at boosting China's domestic consumption, has already taken initial effects and created more demand and opportunities for ASEAN businessmen.

Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEAN, had also expressed thanks several times to China's efforts in helping ASEAN to combat the financial crisis and promote trade during his speech to the China-ASEAN Customs-Trade Cooperation Forum at the Expo.

"China is now the No. 3 trade partner of ASEAN, and will be the No. 1 very soon," said Surin.

The bilateral trade volume had grown three folds since the two sides started to build the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area(CAFTA) six years ago, from 59 billion U.S. dollars in 2003 to 112 billion U.S. dollars last year, according to official figures.

Separately, China was Vietnam's largest trade partner as of the end of 2008, and second largest trade partner of Myanmar, Thailandand Singapore.

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang had pointed out during the Expo that due to effective stimulus packages and closer economic cooperation, Chinese economy is witnessing rising economic growth, while ASEAN members had also reined in economic downturn.

The total value of imports and exports of China in September was 218.94 billion U.S. dollars, up 14.2 percent from August, according to the country's the General Administration of Customs.

The Chinese economy expanded 8.9 percent year on year in the third quarter of this year, and 7.7 percent year on year in the first nine months, according to the latest statistics from China's National Bureau of Statistics.

The region is expecting more momentum for economic recovery and further prosperity with the China-ASEAN Fund on Investment Cooperation starting operation by the end of 2009 and the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) fully established from 2010.

The 10 billion U.S. dollar Fund, which aims at supporting the infrastructure development in the China-ASEAN region, would advance regional financial ties to keep up with increasing trade exchanges, according to Li Ruogu, Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of China.

The CAFTA, which is to be established on Jan. 1, 2010, will cover a population of 1.9 billion and conduct zero-tariff policy on 90 percent of the products traded between the two sides.

According to a feasibility study released earlier at the ASEAN+6 economic ministers' meeting, for ASEAN alone, the establishment of a free trade area will result in 3.38 percent increase in their GDP.

"I'm really excited about the coming FTA and other future cooperations, for less tax, more clients and larger business," said Huang, looking cheerful and sanguine.

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