Your Excellency Mr. Zeng Qinghong, Vice Chairman of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China;
Your Excellencies, ASEAN Heads of States/Governments;
Your Excellency Mr. Lu Bing, Governor of the People’s Government of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region;
Your Excellency Mr. Wan Jifei, Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade;
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to extend our deep gratitude and appreciation to the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Government of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the China-ASEAN Expo Organizing Committee and the people of Nanning for the warmest hospitality and excellent arrangements for our participation at the Second China-ASEAN Expo 2005 and this Second China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.
As you are already aware, China has become a steadfast partner to ASEAN over many years. This is a crucial partnership due not only to China’s significant presence and role in the maintenance of peace and stability in Asia as a whole, but also to China’s intensifying influence in regional and global economic development.
ASEAN and China has further strengthened its relations after the leaders of ASEAN and China decided to “forge closer relations between ASEAN and China in the 21st Century”, through the enhancement of economic relations and the establishment of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area. To this end, we have adopted our long term vision and taken steps to implement action plans and specific projects aimed at attracting investments and increasing investment flows between ASEAN and China with the view to accelerating growth and promoting development in the region. Trade and investment relations will definitely contribute to rapidly bridging development gaps among ASEAN countries through the implementation of specific measures including the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and the Roadmap for Integration of ASEAN (RIA).
ASEAN and China have made a further step in strengthening their relationships after China acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, adopted the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and signed theFramework Agreement on ASEAN – China Comprehensive Economic Cooperation during the ASEAN-China Summit in Phnom Penh in 2002, – all these are very important for peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region. China has attached great attention to reducing the development gap in ASEAN by granting special and preferential treatment status or “Early Harvest Program” to ASEAN’s least developed members, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. I would like to take this opportunity to thank China for giving us the special and preferential status, which is of great benefit to our efforts in advancing our economies to the level that other ASEAN countries have achieved.
We have agreed and are strongly convinced that the “building block approach” is the best way to promote and enhance ASEAN-China cooperation to become more dynamic and responsive to our balanced needs and interests in the short and the long run. As part of the effort to establish an ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, we signed in 2004 the Agreement on Trade of Goods and the Agreement on Dispute Settlement Mechanism. Now, ASEAN and China are negotiating to conclude the Agreement on Trade in Services and Investment.
We welcome China’s deep interest in the development of the Mekong River basin region. This is very complementary to theGMS Program that China and five of the ASEAN members are already engaged in. The GMS Program provides concrete, pragmatic actions toward development that will bear fruit across the entire subregion and Southeast Asia.
ASEAN has much to benefit from more developed China, which absorbs more and more imports of goods and services from ASEAN countries. It is my conviction that in 2010, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area of nearly 2 billion people will take shape and determine the dimension of our and the world’s engagement with China. This indeed reflects the wisdom and the vision of H.E Zhu Rongji, former Prime Minister of PRC, as well as that of all ASEAN leaders who decided, at the ASEAN-China summit in Phnom Penh in 2002, to establish the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area by 2010 for ASEAN-6 and by 2015 for the newer ASEAN members.
One of those measures is to organize the China-ASEAN Expo. In the ASEAN-China Summit in 2003, H.E. Prime Minister Wen Jiaboa proposed Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of PRC, for hosting this trade Expo.
The First China-ASEAN Expo, organized in November last year, was very successful with 1505 enterprises participated and with 129 international investment projects amounting to USD4.9 billion were signed. I believe that this Expo will be more successful than previous one.
ASEAN and China are now an economy of nearly 1,850 million consumers with USD2,480 billion in GDP in 2004. The Chinese economy grew by 9.5% in 2004 compared to 9.3 in 2003, while ASEAN grew by 6.1% in 2004 higher than the previous year, which was 5.2%. The bilateral trade relations between ASEAN and China have increased rapidly from USD78 billion in 2003 to USD100 billion in 2004. In the first half 2005, trade between ASEAN and China increased by 25%. China is the fourth largest trade partner of ASEAN, and ASEAN remains an important trade partner of China. Moreover, this economic growth at a very high rate has absorbed tremendous amount of investments from ASEAN. ASEAN’s investments in China have increased from USD4.8 billion in 1998 to USD26 billion now. Also, China’s investment in ASEAN has gradually increased.
In the past 10 years, Cambodia has gone through fast-track transformation not only in political and security aspect, but also in economic and social dimensions. This has opened windows of opportunities and created firm foundation for an equitable socio-economic development. Moreover, Cambodia has scored great success in ensuring macroeconomic stability and poverty reduction. In the past 5 years, Cambodian economy grew by 6.8% annually. Inflation has been low under 3%. Poverty incidence has declined from 49% by the end of 1980s to 34% in 2004. And, the exchange rate has been broadly stable.
Moreover, Cambodia has made impressive strides in integrating itself into international community. Cambodia membership in ASEAN, ASEM and WTO, combined with its cooperation in the GMS, ACMECS and other sub-regional development triangles, will provide great opportunities for the reform in investment and trade regime, focusing mainly on liberalization and decentralization of decision making process through reducing bureaucracy, eliminating barriers and constraints to investments, implementing modernization of organization and management structure of the economy, and increasing the comparative advantage to the regional and world standards. In this context, we can see clearly that Cambodia has opened its new chapter of history toward a brighter future with strong and lasting peace.
I strongly believe that the establishment of ASEAN-China Free Trade Area will further strengthen and expand Cambodia’s opportunity in socio-economic development. I wish to take the opportunity, once again, to thank the government of the People’s Republic of China for opening a market to us with no tariff and no quotas for 418 items of Cambodian goods. I strongly appeal to Cambodian and Chinese as well as ASEAN businessmen to explore means to better utilize the preferential treatment in order to export goods within the rage of the 418 items to the Chinese market. Indeed, you all can come and invest in Cambodia to produce those goods for exporting to China.
On this auspicious occasion, on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, I would like to reiterate our support for the “One-China Policy” and all the measures taken by the PRC for the unification of China. Furthermore, I would like also to congratulate China for the recent launch of space craft, which I consider a joint success of our region.
Cambodia participates this Expo by presenting the scenery of Siem Reap” – a city of celestial beauty and the grandeur of temples, which mark the culmination of Khmer civilization and form the hart and soul of the Khmer nation. Angkor – one of the Seven Wonders of the World – has become the tourist destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists.
I hope, one day, you will find time to visit Angkor’s temples to get inspiration from the magnificent architecture and arts of humanity and our famous historical heritage. I am sure you will appreciate and remember the indelible beauty and greatness of Angkor forever, when visited! I also hope there will be more and more tourists from China to visit Siem Reap and more than 200 temples in the Angkor archeological complex.
Moreover, the RGC have approved the construction of another international airport in Sihanoukville, with the aim to establish a strategic triangle for tourism development linking Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, and to diversify tourism destinations in Cambodia and link it to production sectors such as agriculture, which will contribute to employment generation and increasing incomes for Cambodian people. In this sense, I urge ASEAN and China to accelerate the development of tourism in the region, through linking key tourist destinations in ASEAN and China, implementing “open sky policy” and facilitating tourist visa, in order to increase the flow of tourists into our region.
Finally, I may wish a success to the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit and the China-ASEAN Expo 2005, and good health, happiness and success to you all.