BANGKOK, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said here on Sunday that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) welcomed China's strong support for the regional bloc's development on trade, economy and maritime cooperation.
Speaking on the 22nd ASEAN-China summit here, Duterte highly praised the relations between the regional bloc and China on behalf of ASEAN countries.
"ASEAN-China relationship is one of the most substantive partnerships between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners," Duterte read the common statement of ASEAN.
China became the first country to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN in 2003. The Philippines now serves as the country coordinator for ASEAN-China relations until 2021.
Duterte said that ASEAN members expressed their appreciation to China for its strong support for ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture.
On the economic and trade area, China is ASEAN's largest trade partner and one of the most important external sources of foreign direct investment (FDI).
Duterte stressed that ASEAN countries and China should continue to strengthen trade, investment, and tourism flows, including through the full and effective implementation of the upgrade protocol of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA).
"We welcome China's continued support for ASEAN's efforts to narrow the development gap among ASEAN member states," he said.
Duterte also said ASEAN and China share a common interest in preserving and protecting free trade and upholding the rules-based multilateral trading system embodied in the World Trade Organization (WTO), urging all parties to reaffirm their commitment to intensifying efforts to conclude the negotiations on a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as soon as possible.
RCEP, initiated by ASEAN in 2012, is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10-member states of ASEAN and its six partners -- China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
ASEAN also welcomed the joint efforts from China and ASEAN to promote practical maritime cooperation including in areas such as marine environmental protection, Duterte also said in his speech.
Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Thailand, the rotating chair of ASEAN for 2019, is holding the 35th ASEAN Summit and the related summits on Nov. 2-4.