The China-ASEAN “Diamond Decade”

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Sept. 9 – During the 10th China-ASEAN Expo, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced the proposal of a “Diamond Decade” between China and the ASEAN nations, which will seek to build greater economic cooperation between the two areas.

Premier Li was quoted as saying “we unanimously agreed that our common interests are expanding. We had the capabilities to create a ‘golden decade’ in the past. We also have the power to create a ‘diamond decade’ in the future.”

2013 is the 10th year that the two parties have had a strategic partnership.

Also during the expo, the deputy governor of China’s central bank Yi Gang stated that China had signed bilateral local currency swap agreements with countries in Asia to the total of US$229 billion (1.4 trillion RMB).

Furthermore, Jonathan Chon, chairman of the Sunwah Group and honorary president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, called for the creation of a China-ASEAN bank.

Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN increased from US$54.77 billion in 2002 to US$400.1 billion in 2012, representing a year-on-year growth rate of 22 percent. China is also ASEAN’s largest trading partner.

In order to further economic cooperation within the region, Premier Li put forward a new version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. By 2020, in this new formulation, China would attempt to more than double bilateral trade to the amount of US$1 trillion. In addition, Li stated that two-way investment is planned to grow to US$150 billion over the period from 2013 to 2020.

Further aspects of the “Diamond Decade” include: prioritizing ASEAN member countries in China’s peripheral diplomacy, strengthening the strategic partnership with ASEAN, and cooperating with ASEAN to build peace in the region, including the South China Sea.

Premier Li also said that China is very interested in setting up agricultural agreements and wishes to increase imports of commodities from the ASEAN region.

The Premier also expressed China’s willingness to participate in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the possibility of working within frameworks such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

China’s goal for its relationship with ASEAN, as explained by Premier Li, is to “make the two wheels of regional and global trade roll together.”

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