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Observers: "Belt and Road" Initiative Enhances China-ASEAN Connectivity
   2015-11-20 20:14:00    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Wang Mengzhen

Ahead of Premier Li's four-day trip, industry observers are saying that the China-proposed "Belt and Road" initiative could further boost China-ASEAN cooperation.

CRI's Wang Mengzhen has the details.

 

Back in October, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed building a close-knit China-ASEAN community under the guidance of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to promote maritime cooperation.

The initiative fits well with the ASEAN Master Plan for Connectivity adopted in 2010, aimed at enhancing the region's infrastructure and institutional connections.

Abdul Majid Ahmad Khan, President of Malaysia-China Friendship Association, says the "Belt and Road" initiative will be a boon for trade relations between the two sides in the near future.

"I think to me, the next 5 years are very optimistic. The connectivity between ASEAN and China will be totally different from what we see today. First of course, we talk about connectivity in communication in terms of air links, land and also by sea. In future, there will be the new interaction and connectivity between the Chinese people and the ASEAN people to improve tourism."

China has been ASEAN's largest trade partner since 2009, with ASEAN ranking as China's third-largest trade partner since 2011.

Bilateral trade between China and the ASEAN members is expected to hit 500 billion US dollars by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, it has been five years since the China-ASEAN free trade area was set up, eliminating tariffs on 90 percent of imported goods.

Bong Hon Liong, President of the Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce, has suggested China's "Belt and Road" initiative could help realize a more integrated ASEAN community.

"The first thing is financing connectivity, which requires each nation to be more open to foreign investment. Secondly, there should be more cooperation on policy, including the signing of more inter-governmental deals. The other two aspects are tighter links between each other's infrastructure and goods. As such, people in related countries could enjoy more choices of commodities."

However, Professor Tang Zhimin from Panyapiwat Institute of Management in Thailand believes that there's still a long way to go before the ideas contained within the "Belt and Road" initiatives can be carried out.

Professor Tang says the implementation process requires joint efforts from both governments and enterprises.

"The Belt and Road Initiatives is no doubt important to ASEAN's economic development. But we need to hammer out how to turn these ideas into concrete plans. In doing so, we will consider the establishment of governmental mechanisms within the region. Then, we will also study on how to connect the 'Belt and Road' with ASEAN's Master Plan for Connectivity in terms of funding and institutional building."

Last year, the China-ASEAN Information Harbor was jointly established as a focus for Internet connectivity between the two sides.

By the end of this year, the ten ASEAN countries are expected to form the ASEAN Community, aimed at closer integration through political security, economic and socio-cultural links.

The new community will help provide more potential for China and ASEAN cooperation in infrastructure construction and cross-border trade.

For CRI, I am Wang Mengzhen.

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