BEIJING, May 22 (Xinhua) -- As the largest trading partner to each other, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have joined forces to deepen business cooperation while curbing the spread of COVID-19, experts said Wednesday.
Closer collaboration is an effective way to combat the epidemic and the downward pressure on the economy, said Xu Ningning, executive president of the China-ASEAN Business Council, at a video teleconference on China-ASEAN cooperation in fighting COVID-19.
Since the relationship was established in 1991, cooperation between China and ASEAN countries has led to rising demand for commodities and the expansion of mutual investment between enterprises of the two sides, Xu said.
In the first four months of this year, trade between China and ASEAN went up 5.7 percent year on year to 1.35 trillion yuan (about 190.3 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for 14.9 percent of China's total foreign trade volume, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
In breakdown, China's exports to ASEAN increased by 3.9 percent year on year while imports from ASEAN grew 8 percent.
Thirty percent of the trade between China and ASEAN are semi-finished products and parts, indicating a close industrial cooperation and the existence of a supply chain between the two sides, said Shen Minghui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Despite the impact of COVID-19, trade and investment between China and ASEAN nations both increased, showing the resilience of the economic relations between the two sides," he said.
The import and export of integrated circuits between China and ASEAN increased substantially, driving the overall growth of bilateral trade by 3.3 percentage points in the first quarter of 2020.
Shen stressed the importance of making efforts to ensure safe and smooth customs clearance when emergencies occur.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 members and their six partners which is expected to be achieved at the end of this year, may also facilitate further bilateral cooperation.
The negotiations mentioned that fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables and other goods should be released within six hours of arrival or departure in terms of customs clearance, as well as effectively facilitating visa processing or approval procedures for business personnel when they enter or leave customs, Shen said.
All parties are currently pushing forward the review of legal texts and other related work in an orderly manner to prepare for the final texts of the RCEP agreement.
While continuing to strengthen the prevention and control of the epidemic, China and ASEAN countries should further resume trade exchanges where conditions allow. They should also open up green channels, repair industrial chains damaged by the epidemic and ensure the supply of industrial chains, Xu said.
In view of the increase in the number of poor people as a result of the epidemic in some ASEAN countries, the two sides should increase cooperation in poverty alleviation, he said.
The year 2020 is the China-ASEAN Year of Digital Economy Cooperation and thus it is the right time to strengthen cooperation in telemedicine services, e-commerce and online transactions between the two sides, he said. Enditem