Interview: RCEP marks beginning of new era for China-ASEAN ties, says Thai official
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) marks the beginning of a new era for ties between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a Thai official has said.
Panitan Wattanayagorn, chairman of Thai prime minister's Security Advisory Committee, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the interaction between China and ASEAN started in 1991, when China was invited to the 24th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Bilateral relations have since gone smoothly, with continued progresses in cooperation in such areas as trade, investment, security, education, culture, and tourism, he said.
Bilateral trade has skyrocketed by 85 times during the past three decades, according to China's official data. In 2020, ASEAN became China's largest trading partner, while China has remained ASEAN's largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years.
On the investment front, ASEAN has become one of China's major outbound investment destinations and sources of foreign direct investment.
In November 2020, the RCEP agreement was signed by its 15 participating countries including China and the 10 ASEAN members, creating a massive free trade zone covering roughly 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product, trade and population.
The RCEP marks "the beginning of a new era for China-ASEAN ties" and is a boon to trade and investment in not only Southeast Asia, but also the world, Panitan said.
He called on the RCEP participating countries to work together for the early entry into force and implementation of the agreement.
"We are hoping that this unprecedented multilateral cooperation will get a goal next year," said the official.
Pointing to the rapid economic growth of ASEAN and China, the development of the Belt and Road Initiative and many other new advancement between the two partners, Panitan said that bilateral ties are not only important for the region like in the past, but going to be significant for the international community.
"The future is quite bright ahead for China and ASEAN," he said.