BEIJING: Themed “enhancing connectivity and sharing prosperity,” an ASEAN-China forum kicked off in Vientiane, Laos on November 27, highlighting the achievements and prospects of aligning China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC2025).
Hosted by ASEAN-China Center (ACC), the event was held against the backdrop of “Visit Laos Year 2024,” a tourism promotion campaign launched by Vientiane on November 24. Laos will assume the chairmanship of the ASEAN in 2024. The year 2024 also marks China-ASEAN Year of People-to-People Exchanges.
Laotian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith delivers a speech at a forum hosted by the ASEAN-China Center in Vientiane, Laos, on November 27, 2023.
Shen Yueyue, vice chairperson of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said at the forum’s opening that over the past decade, China-ASEAN economic and cultural exchanges have increased dramatically, and political mutual trust has deepened.
According to Shen, China will adhere to ASEAN as a priority direction in its neighborhood diplomacy, further strengthen strategic synergy with ASEAN members and achieve a higher level of connectivity and integrated development, including infrastructure cooperation, negotiations on the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA) 3.0, and strengthening cooperation in the fields of green, digital and new energy, as well as exchanges in culture, tourism, and education.
“China can only do well when ASEAN is doing well. When China does well, ASEAN will get even better. And this is also exactly what ASEAN-China comprehensive strategic partnership has been meant and built upon,” said Shi Zhongjun, secretary-general of the ACC.
China and ASEAN remain each other’s top trading partners, with bilateral trade between China and the ASEAN increasing by 0.9 percent year-on-year to 5.23 trillion yuan ($374 billion) in the first 10 months of 2023, accounting for more than 15 percent of China’s total foreign trade during the same period, official data shows.
Laotian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith expressed gratitude to the Chinese government and people for “constant support and help,” especially in the BRI-related projects with Laos.
“Together with China, it implemented the China-Laos railway project, the Laos expressway project and the economic corridor project, which made positive contributions to the strategy of ‘changing a landlocked country into a land-linked country’ in Laos,”
He said that Laos “will continue to support China’s new initiatives, namely, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative.”
“We congratulate to China on the 10th anniversary of the implementation of BRI. And we are fully supportive of this initiative. Laos is part of the implementation of BRI, and we hope that the cooperation would bring more benefits to the people of the two countries,” Saleumxay Kommasith told the media on Monday.
“We would always welcome Chinese tourists to Laos because next year is Visit Laos Year which we have already announced. We hope to see more and more Chinese tourists coming to Laos next year,” he added.
Myanmar’s Union Minister for Hotels and Tourism Thet Thet Khine said that there is huge potential to enhance the socio-economic development of the ASEAN members through the regional connectivity cooperation with China.
During the forum session on promoting business opportunities and cooperation, more than 200 businesspeople from both China and ASEAN members exchanged their insights on development.
Wang Lizong, chairman of Guangdong High-tech Industry Chambers, said on Monday that the momentum of global economic recovery is relatively weak and all countries should work together in the face of the challenges and make efforts to maintain the globalization process.
The China-Laos ties is firm and solid, with great potential for trade and investment, said Wang, noting that Chinese companies are interested in further broadening the areas of cooperation and further promoting integration in a modern industrial and trade chain.