Li urges ASEAN to build an East Asia community

China proposes to advance the construction of an East Asia Economic Community to promote regional integration and common development, Premier Li Keqiang said in Manila yesterday.

China proposes to advance the construction of an East Asia Economic Community to promote regional integration and common development, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in Manila yesterday.

Addressing the 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan and South Korea (10+3) leaders’ meeting in Manila, Li said East Asia had weathered the storm of two financial crises to become one of the world’s most dynamic and promising regions in terms of development.

Last year, East Asia accounted for 44 percent of the world’s economic growth, he said.

With the rise of anti-globalization sentiment and trade protectionism, Li said it is time to push for the construction of an economic community in East Asia to make the region an important engine of global economic recovery.

Since its establishment 20 years ago, 10+3 cooperation has been improving and expanding, Li said. Today, it is one of the most sophisticated and fruitful cooperative mechanisms in Asia.

Li said China hopes the leaders can build consensus at the meeting and show their support for regional integration and the construction of an economic community.

He said it should be built under two principles — ASEAN should be in a central position, and consensus through consultation, openness and inclusiveness should be followed.

To build the community, Li called for enhanced cooperation in six areas — trade, investment and productivity capacity, infrastructure, finance, sustainable development, and people-to-people exchanges.

“We should advance trade liberalization and facilitation to gradually achieve the ultimate goal of a single market,” Li said, calling for expanding the scope of opening-up.

He suggested a customs clearance cooperation mechanism in East Asia to better promote cross-border e-commerce.

In addition to traditional industries, Li called for stronger investment cooperation in emerging industries, such as the digital, smart, green and shared economies.

Li also proposed a 10+3 service alliance for small and medium enterprises.

“China stands ready to better align the Belt and Road initiative with the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and discuss making a master plan on East Asia connectivity,” Li said.

He proposed a regional financial cooperation system to safeguard the region’s financial stability.

The benefits of an economic community for East Asia, he said, should be shared by all countries, taking into account the concerns of the underdeveloped and disadvantaged.

China is willing to share its experience in poverty reduction with other countries, he said.

Li also called for expanded cultural and people-to-people exchanges to create a greater sense of community.

And he called for speeding up China-Japan-South Korea free trade agreement negotiations.

The FTA negotiations were launched in November 2012 and their 12th round was held in Tokyo in April this year.

Yesterday’s meeting was chaired by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in were among those present.

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