SFC Markets and Finance | Kao Kim Hourn: ASEAN hopes to enhance connectivity with the GBA

2024年04月12日 21:45   21世纪经济报道 21财经APP   杨雨莱

南方财经全媒体记者 杨雨莱 广州报道

ASEAN has remained China's largest trading partner for four years. In the first quarter of this year, China-ASEAN trade volume reached 1.6 trillion yuan, with an increase of 6.4%. Chinese private enterprises spared no effort to explore new emerging markets, with a growth of 10.9% in import and export trade to ASEAN. At the same time, in the first two months of 2024, the Guangdong-ASEAN trade also achieved positive growth of 17.3%, accounting for 15.5% of Guangdong's total import and export value. 

Without a doubt, ASEAN is an important partner for China and Guangdong. The Canton Fair also contributes to China-ASEAN trade relations. The first phase of the 135th Canton Fair will include delegations from ASEAN member countries like Malaysia and Thailand.

How to assess China-ASEAN trade relations? What are the expectations for China-ASEAN Free Trade Area 3.0? To find answers, we had an exclusive interview with the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Kao Kim Hourn. 

SFC Markets and Finance: Chinese government has promoted the term high quality development. In your definition, how do you understand the term high quality development?

Kao Kim Hourn: My understanding is very simple. It means the upgrade of the next level of quality meaning that becomes more. Whatever we produce, what we do become more high-quality conscious. For example, just you see infrastructure later on. When talking about quality road, then talk about that road will last longer. Any products we produce that will talk about quality products. I mean the products will last longer and become more resilient. Therefore, we increase more trust of the consumers in terms what products or services that will be offered. That's how I would understand it in the layman’s term.

SFC Markets and Finance: Do you think the high quality development will drive China's economic growth in the future? 

Kao Kim Hourn: Of course. It certainly will add another dimension when you talk about high quality development, meaning that in all sectors, the one in all sectors. Certainly it would inject a new dynamism, a new thinking, a new approach to how we should look at development. Development that we're looking at would be sustainability, something that we have to take care of. We also need to take care of the environment, not development at the expense of the environment. This is something that we see is happening. Now, I think it is China and some of the countries around the world. I think this is really not only a policy shift in my view, but fundamentally is a leadership shift. A focus as soon as we are trying for the present and future sustainable development. 

SFC Markets and Finance: China has promoted the high-standard of opening-up and then we have the removal of the restrictions of the foreign investment on China's manufacturing sector. How do you think the level of openness of Chinese market to the global world right now?

Kao Kim Hourn: I think it's too early to see, but I think it's important. I think of course we welcome the opening up by China to the world. It means that investors should have the opportunity to invest in China in the sector's economy. This is a new opening, new opportunity. I’m sure we all would welcome this. I think a lot of investors would like to invest and do well in China successfully.

SFC Markets and Finance: China has been ASEAN largest trading partners for years. How do you view the current state of the China-ASEAN trade and economic relationship? 

Kao Kim Hourn: We are pleased with the state of trade between the two sides in China. We would like to see the number continues increasing. Between ASEAN and China, the combined population of 2 billion people. So the market size is significant indeed, whether on its own or whether in global context. What's important is that we need to make our trade become even more meaningful and of course beneficial for both sides. So I hope that we will continue to reduce the non-trade barriers, for example, on both sides so that we allow trade to flow on both sides more freely. For example, you wouldn't believe this, but we have a country in ASEAN, Malaysia, imports chicken from China. Not just a one-way trade in terms of the agriculture products, but also both ways, a two-way trade. Hopefully the trade volume continues to grow. Of course that we will continue to be the top trading partners of each other.

SFC Markets and Finance: In the opening ceremony of Boao forum, the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has mentioned the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area 3.0. What expectation can we have for it? 

Kao Kim Hourn: I think with the current negotiations to upgrade the ASEAN-China FTA 3.0, I think this is gonna be new dynamics in terms of trade between the two sides. I think it's important that we have to continue to prioritize our trade cooperation. I think for ASEAN, certainly China has been one of the key priorities for us. That's why the current negotiations is ongoing. And we'd like to see the current negotiation to conclude as early as possible, hopefully before the end this year.

SFC Markets and Finance: Guangdong province is also a pacesetter for our country's reform and opening up, what role can Guangdong play in the international trade and investment?

Kao Kim Hourn: Well, certainly it is up to the Guangdong Provincial Government to decide what role it wants to play. I’m sure it has a lot of strengths. It should play in the areas of its strengths that it can play a positive role. But I certainly would like it to work together with ASEAN, not only between ASEAN and China, but also with each of the provinces of China. Because on its own, you know, like Guangdong, for example, is already a major economic force on its own.

So let’s see what we can do together in terms of taking advantage of the current Free Trade Area (FTA) between ASEAN in China on one hand, but also in the context of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP), which, of course, Chinese companies are also very active to take advantage of this global, and the largest free trade agreement that we have, not only between ASEAN and China, but among the 15 countries, 10 from ASEAN plus China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. 

SFC Markets and Finance: The Greater Bay Area is the innovation hub of China. How do you think the Guangdong innovation of ability and how do you think about the trade relation may be built in the future between ASEAN and the Guangdong?

Kao Kim Hourn: The GBA has a lot of advantages. Number one I understand is because of the geographical proximity between ASEAN and China. Second, I understand is because of the policy priority that China has, the Chinese government has given to the GBA. So we have been working together for many years already. So I think there are many sectors that the GBA will play, ranking from manufacturing to high-tech area also in terms of the shipping, logistic, finance, for example. So even port. I would say why not link up whatever it has been doing? Because like I say, I believe that we should push all the areas, we should do more trade, we should have more investment on both sides. We should have more cooperation in the tourism sector. We should enhance connectivity. And also I think what we need to do is that we wanna make sure that we all link up to the global supply chain so that we all have the opportunity to really maximize the current opportunity,  but also opportunities in the future.

SFC Markets and Finance: Under the Belt and Road Initiative, China made a lot of green investment in the foreign markets. So how do you think the BRI helps with the green transformation in ASEAN?

Kao Kim Hourn: We hope of course the BRI has been quite active already for the past more than 10 years, these years or so. I will hope that in the green transition, we very much welcome it, because we require a lot of investment in what we call the renewable energy sector. China has been very active. We hope that now and of course in the future, we'd like to welcome more investment from China, whether in the green economy, the digital economy, blue economy, circular economy. I think it's important that we need to work together because we gain benefits greatly from our cooperation and collaboration, particularly in the economic sector.

SFC Markets and Finance: China and ASEAN has a good foundation for cooperation in the green finance, what expectation do you have for the cooperation in the green finance?

Kao Kim Hourn: The green finance is certainly welcomed very much in the energy production. As we move away from coal burning, we need clean energy, clean and sustainable energy. But also we need to transform ways into energy solutions. That's another sector as well. I would say right now is the opportunity for Chinese investment to continue to make ASEAN as a priority. And also because ASEAN and China now are the comprehensive strategic partnership. We should be able to work together on all sectors of cooperation that we have between the two sides.







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