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China, SE Asia see paths align for growth

With teamwork, encouraging prospects for recovery observed at global summit

China and Southeast Asia should keep working together to strengthen regional integration in an effort to hasten the economic recovery from the pandemic, a forum heard on Thursday.

Senior officials, business leaders and experts at the Global Chinese Economic and Technology Summit discussed the need for nations to develop both physical and digital infrastructure and to invest more on renewable energy in line with global climate commitments.

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said his country is a “firm believer in free, fair and open trade” and that the government’s signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, agreement “signifies Malaysia’s commitment to regional integration”.

Ismail Sabri, who delivered the opening address to the forum via video link, said Malaysia was the first country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to formalize diplomatic relations with China in 1974, and bilateral ties have since flourished.

Jusuf Kalla, former vice-president of Indonesia, said the global economy will recover with the cooperation and participation of all.

The annual event, organized by the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific, was held in the town of Batu Ferringhi in Malaysia’s Penang state. The forum, themed Promoting Business, Cultural and Digital Economy Cooperation and Diplomacy, took place online and offline.

Noting that ASEAN is China’s biggest trading partner, speakers said the RCEP, which takes effect on Jan 1, together with China-led initiatives like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative, will further strengthen diplomatic and economic ties between the two sides.

“Despite the pandemic and a slowdown in economic growth, the Chinese market has been becoming much more open for international investors and companies,” Fan Gang, president of the China Development Institute and director of China’s National Economic Research Institute, said via video.

“There are risks and difficulties we need to discuss. But it is also the time for us to think of how to explore and utilize all the new opportunities ahead,” Fan said.

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