Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of
The People's Republic of China
At the 22nd ASEAN Plus China, Japan and ROK Summit
4 November 2019
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha,
It gives me great pleasure to attend the 22nd ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Summit. On behalf of the Chinese government, I would like to express my sincere thanks to our host Thailand for its thoughtful preparations and arrangements for the Summit.
APT cooperation, which was initiated in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis, has traversed an extraordinary journey. In the past 20 years and more, thanks to our joint efforts, the APT framework has continued to strengthen with expanding and deepening cooperation, contributing to the steady progress of regional economic integration. Deemed a successful example of multilateral cooperation, APT cooperation has delivered benefits to the countries and peoples in the region, and boosted economic growth in Asia and beyond. These hard-won achievements deserve to be cherished, and the valuable experience gained therefrom should be carried forward.
As we meet, the world is seeing profound and complex changes. Slowing global growth, sluggish trade and investment worldwide, and notably rising protectionism are shaking market confidence and posing new risks and challenges to the development of East Asian countries and APT cooperation. As underpinning forces for regional prosperity and stability, APT countries are duty-bound to strengthen unity and collaboration. Together, we must firmly stand for the international system with the UN at its core and the WTO-centered multilateral trading regime, vigorously advance regional economic integration, firmly pursue open and inclusive development with win-win cooperation, and tackle risks and challenges head on. This will help broaden our space of development and inject a fresh impetus into the steady growth of the regional and global economy.
Given our diversity and strong economic complementarity, there exists a broad room for cooperation among APT countries. We need to further unleash the potential to seek more substantive progress in APT cooperation, and steer East Asian cooperation toward higher-quality development. In this context, I propose that we intensify our efforts in the following areas:
First, bringing economic integration to a higher level. Asia is one of the most economically integrated regions in the world. Most of the new free trade agreements since 2013 are signed mainly by Asian countries. APT countries, representing the bulk of Asia's economy, have a total trade volume of over US$10 trillion, almost half of which is intra-regional trade. With the ASEAN Economic Community realized, over 90 percent of tariff items in intra-ASEAN trade have been eliminated.
China, Japan and the ROK are ASEAN's important trade and investment partners. Last year, ASEAN's free trade arrangements with China, Japan and the ROK generated a total trade volume of close to US$870 billion, up by 6.8 percent year on year. And the three countries' investment in ASEAN countries grew by 10 percent to reach US$38 billion.
Thanks to the joint efforts of all parties, 15 RCEP participating countries have concluded text-based negotiations and essentially all their market access issues, and are committed to resolving the few outstanding issues by the end of this year, to make the agreement ready for signing at next year's RCEP Summit. This is a major breakthrough in building a free trade area in East Asia that covers the largest population, the most diverse membership and boasts the greatest development potential. The conclusion of the RCEP will strongly boost trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.
APT countries, accounting for a large part of the RCEP, have been strong supporters throughout the negotiations, and will be direct beneficiaries. As such, we should play a positive role in facilitating the signing of the agreement as soon as possible. The successful conclusion of the RCEP will put us at a new starting point, and make us more confident in speeding up the China-Japan-ROK FTA negotiations and building an industrial chain and specialization structure in East Asia based on our comparative advantages. These efforts will be conducive to fostering a higher level of economic integration in our region, and put us on course toward an East Asia Economic Community (EAEC).
Second, supporting regional connectivity. Connectivity is an important foundation for East Asian economic integration. China supports Thailand's proposal of issuing the APT Leaders' Statement on Connecting the Connectivities Initiative at this year's Summit, as it will help forge a synergy of our efforts in boosting regional connectivity. As a cooperation platform for common and inclusive development, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has drawn a strong interest from regional countries. Yesterday, ASEAN leaders and I issued the Joint Statement on Synergizing MPAC 2025 and the BRI. China is ready to work with all parties to enhance the synergy between the BRI and other regional connectivity initiatives, follow a high-standard, people-centered and sustainable approach and promote open, clean and green development. We need to strengthen cooperation on economic corridors and industrial parks, and improve institutional connectivity including that of market rules and standards, so as to promote interconnected and integrated development of regional countries.
Third, enhancing regional financial cooperation. Financial cooperation is a priority for the APT framework. Parties need to act on the vision set out in the Strategic Directions of ASEAN+3 Finance Process, and work to improve the regional economic governance architecture through financial cooperation and serve the need for regional economic integration.
The role of the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) and AMRO needs to be fully leveraged to upgrade the regional financial safety net and build up East Asia's capacity to defuse financial risks and maintain steady economic growth. We welcome the completion of the first periodic review of the CMIM Agreement and support further efforts to explore using local currencies to make the CMIM safer, more effective and readily available. Meanwhile, the use of local currencies in regional trade and investment should also be increased. We support AMRO in strengthening its economic surveillance capacity. We suggest efforts be made to develop local currency bond markets, implement the new ABMI Mid-Term Road Map and mobilize more private capital in the region to invest in the infrastructure sector.
We also need to strengthen FinTech cooperation in joint research, information sharing and regulation. Last month, the inaugural meeting of the APT Inter-Bank Association was successfully held in Thailand, which will help further diversify financing channels in the region.
Fourth, promoting sustainable development. Over the years, APT countries have engaged in extensive cooperation on poverty reduction, aging and food security. China will work with other APT countries to implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and share experience through the East Asia Cooperation Initiative on Poverty Reduction and further enhance APTERR.
China will do what it can to narrow the development gap and achieve common prosperity in the region through sub-regional cooperation frameworks, including the Lancang-Mekong and the China- BIMP-EAGA cooperation. We support the establishment of the APT Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management and will be happy to host its first meeting next year. We will work with Japan and the ROK for cooperation with interested ASEAN countries under the "China-Japan-ROK+X" arrangement in a joint effort to pursue common progress in the region.
China supports cooperation on the digital economy, smart cities, artificial intelligence and e-commerce to deliver greater benefits of innovation and scientific and technological advances to the general public.
Fifth, deepening people-to-people exchanges. Close bonds between our peoples are key to smooth progress in cooperation. Recent years have seen a boom of people-to-people and cultural exchanges among APT countries, which are popular among our people. Cooperation frameworks on tourism, education, culture and press should be fully leveraged and the APT Cooperation Fund well used to sponsor more projects that enjoy the support of the people. The launch of the Network of APT Cultural Cities last month will boost cultural exchanges and cooperation among cities in the region.
China welcomes the establishment of the APT Website, which will help the general public better understand and appreciate APT cooperation. China will remain a good host of the APT Media Cooperation Forum and the APT Young Scientists' Forum to strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between cultures and deepen the understanding and affinity among our peoples.
The prosperity and development of East Asia requires an environment of peace and stability. As an immediate neighbor to the Korean Peninsula and a responsible major country, China has been a promoter of peace and stability, facilitator of dialogue and negotiation, and contributor to long-term security. China will continue to work with other regional countries and play a positive role in promoting political resolution of the Peninsula issue, denuclearization of the Peninsula and enduring peace in the region, and this process.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Over the past seven decades, China has made remarkable progress in development owing to the hard work, wisdom and courage of the Chinese people, and in the course of its mutually beneficial exchanges and cooperation with the rest of the world. Going forward, China has the capacity to take good care of its own affairs and make new contributions to the common development of all countries.
This year, in spite of the complex international environment, the Chinese economy has, on the whole, registered steady growth and solid progress with major indicators performing within our expectations. GDP growth stood at 6.2 percent in the first three quarters of this year and is expected to stay in the range of 6 to 6.5 percent set out early this year. Close to 11 million urban jobs have been newly created, and the surveyed urban unemployment rate in September was 5.2 percent. International payments have been balanced overall with foreign exchange reserves remaining above US$3 trillion.
Structural adjustments are making steady progress. We have seen another bumper harvest of grains. The high-tech manufacturing and modern services industries have maintained fairly fast growth. An average of nearly 20,000 businesses are newly registered every day, maintaining a strong momentum of business growth. This testifies to the dynamism of entrepreneurship and innovation in society and the confidence of market entities. The per capita disposable income of urban and rural residents has been rising in sync with economic growth, the ecological environment is improving, and continued progress has been achieved in meeting people's basic needs.
These achievements have not been easy for China, particularly when its economy has surpassed US$13 trillion and major economies around the world are seeing a slow-down in growth. It once again proves the resilience, potential and vitality of the Chinese economy and our ability to fend off risks and challenges. The fundamentals sustaining China's positive economic outlook for the long term remain unchanged and will not change.
That said, due to the slowing global growth, the Chinese economy is also facing difficulties and challenges amid mounting downward pressure. Fully anticipating the complex and challenging situation at home and abroad, we have made comprehensive preparations and responded with proactive measures.
As the largest developing country in the world, China has intensified its efforts to promote a new type of industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization through deepening reform and opening-up. This process has generated stronger driving forces from within and promises unlimited potential for future development.
China has a 900 million-strong work force, a talent pool of over 170 million with higher education or professional skills, and more than 100 million and still growing market entities. We have a huge market of nearly 1.4 billion people with fast upgrading consumption demand, a full-fledged industrial system with a growing innovative capacity, and well-established infrastructure. All these constitute a strong underpinning for China's growth.
In the meantime, the host of major policies and measures we have taken are paying off. For example, the larger-scale tax and fee cuts adopted early this year have effectively slashed 1.53 trillion yuan worth of taxes and fees in the first eight months of this year. And the amount for the whole year is expected to surpass 2 trillion yuan. Such cuts will help relieve burdens on businesses, invigorate market entities and counteract the downward pressure.
Furthermore, we have stepped up efforts to nurture a world-class, market-oriented business environment governed by a sound legal framework and provide a level playing field for businesses of all types of ownership, domestic and foreign-invested alike. In the first three quarters of this year, despite the sluggish flows of FDI globally, foreign investment in China grew by 6.5 percent year on year. It shows that foreign companies remain optimistic about China and about making investment in China.
Besides, with a large toolkit and sufficient policy reserves for macro-regulation at our disposal, we are confident about meeting the main targets and goals for this year's economic and social development, laying a solid groundwork for the coming year.
China is a friendly neighbor to all countries around the table, ASEAN, Japan and the ROK. China's development will first and foremost benefit its neighborhood. Last year, all ASEAN countries, Japan and the ROK participated in the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), ranking among the top in terms of products exhibited and transaction value. The second CIIE, which will be even larger in scale, is to open in Shanghai shortly. China looks forward to the active participation of your countries.
Looking ahead, no matter how the external environment may change, China will stay committed to the path of peaceful development and all-round opening-up. We will share development opportunities with the people around the world, jointly foster an open world economy, and build a community with a shared future for mankind.
As APT cooperation now enjoys stronger popular support, a more solid basis and greater opportunities for further development, China will, together with all parties, make APT cooperation a major engine for regional economic integration and contribute more to the long-term prosperity and stability of East Asia.