Chinese premier urges upgrading China-ASEAN strategic partnership

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (5th L) poses for a group photo with other leaders at the 21st China-ASEAN (10+1) summit, which is also held to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership, in Singapore, Nov. 14, 2018. (Xinhua/Zhang Ling)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday called for efforts to upgrade the strategic partnership between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as the two sides adopted a key document to chart the course for their ties till 2030.

The China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 was approved at the 21st China-ASEAN (10+1) leaders' meeting held in Singapore. The summit was also held to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership.

Co-chairing the meeting with the Chinese premier, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose country holds the rotating ASEAN chairmanship this year, said that the vision will chart the course for the future ASEAN-China strategic partnership.

UPGRADING STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

At the summit, Li called upon China and ASEAN to boost all-round cooperation, join hands to establish higher-level strategic partnership, and build a closer community with shared future.

Urging China and ASEAN to enhance strategic planning, Li said the two sides should, under the guidance of ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership Vision 2030, synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with the ASEAN Vision 2025, and strengthen the building of the three pillars -- the political security, economy and trade, and people-to-people exchanges, so as to lift China-ASEAN relations to a higher level.

To deepen economic and trade cooperation, Li expects China and ASEAN to work with other relevant countries to substantially conclude negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at an early date, expand cooperation and reduce barriers to trade and investment.

Li said, as this year is the China-ASEAN Year of Innovation, the two sides should discuss the establishment of a new mechanism for science and technology innovation cooperation, implement the science and technology partnership program, conduct research and prepare to sign the cooperation documents on smart cities, and support the establishment of a digital platform for tourism in ASEAN.

To facilitate the key pillar of people-to-people exchanges, Li said China will set up a China-ASEAN scholarship, implement a research and study program for about 1,000 youth leaders from China and ASEAN, and invite another 1,000 outstanding young people from ASEAN for training programs in China.

The Chinese premier also proposed expanding security cooperation, saying China is ready to work with ASEAN to institutionalize the joint naval drills, set up a direct hotline between their defense ministries at an early date, carry out friendly exchanges between defense think tanks and junior officers and deepen cooperation in disaster prevention and reduction, humanitarian aid and counter-terrorism.

Calling the summit a milestone for bilateral strategic partnership, ASEAN leaders said that it is in the interests of both sides to safeguard multilateralism and free trade and that ASEAN is ready to align its development strategies with the Belt and Road Initiative and open up more space for cooperation.

They also agreed on enhancing collaboration in connectivity, innovation, smart-city construction, e-commerce, digital economy and other areas so as to facilitate regional economic integration and the building of an East Asian Community.

REAFFIRMING COMMITMENT ON SEALING SOUTH CHINA SEA COC

The Chinese premier also stressed China's commitment to finalizing a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea as he met with leaders of Southeast Asian countries on Wednesday.

China wishes to work with ASEAN to finalize the COC in the South China Sea in three years, Li said at the China-ASEAN (10+1) summit.

China and ASEAN have arrived at a single draft negotiating text of COC and agreed to complete the first reading of the pact in 2019, Li noted.

China and ASEAN already reached a Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) years ago, and have been seeking a more robust code of conduct.

Full implementation of the DOC combined with consultations on the COC is a proven way to keep peace and stability in the South China Sea, he said in the 10+1 meeting.

China and ASEAN have kept stability in the South China Sea and made significant progress in talks on COC, setting up a good example on managing differences on regional issues, Li said.

Outsiders should respect the will of regional countries and have faith in their wisdom to keep peace and stability in the South China Sea, Li added.

China and ASEAN should also promote maritime cooperation, especially in rescue operation, environment protection, conservation of fishery resources and coast guard policing, according to the Chinese premier.

In addition, China and ASEAN should institutionalize their joint maritime drills, he said, referring to the first joint maritime drill between China and ASEAN in October.

ASEAN leaders agreed to push for the completion of talks on COC and expand maritime cooperation with China so as to ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea.

"FINISHING KICK" OF RCEP TALKS

Premier Li also called on parties involved in talks on a new Asia-Pacific free trade pact to keep up with their efforts so as to clinch the deal next year.

Talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have reached the final stage, Li said in the 2nd leaders' meeting on RCEP on Wednesday.

"We must build on the momentum and unleash a strong finishing kick, striving to complete the deal within 2019," he told leaders of ASEAN as well as South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India in the meeting.

ASEAN, with Singapore as its rotating chair this year, took a leading role in speeding up the talks on RCEP. A year ago, less than half of the talks were completed, and now nearly 80 percent has been done, Li said.

The deal, once reached, would boost trade and investment, promote regional economic integration and benefit the people of all participating countries, Li said.

Leaders at the meeting expressed a strong will to reach the deal as soon as possible, which will send a strong signal on preserving multilateralism and free trade and to boost economic growth and globalization.

The RCEP free trade talks involve the ten ASEAN nations as well as partner countries such as Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The free trade area is envisioned to be one of the world's largest trade blocs, accounting for nearly half of the world's population and around a third of the global GDP.

Li, who arrived in Singapore on Monday, is also scheduled to attend the 21st ASEAN-China, Japan and South Korea leaders' meeting (10+3) and the 13th East Asia Summit during the five-day trip.

Editor: 曹家宁