A cargo ship docks at Qinzhou Port in China-ASEAN Free Trade Area in Qinzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on July 11, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

HANOI — Economic ministers from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members on Thursday welcomed the robust growth of their bilateral trade and investment despite impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the 19th AEM (ASEAN Economic Ministers)-MOFCOM (China’s Ministry of Commerce) Consultations held via video link, the ministers regarded the growth as a demonstration of the resilience and huge potential of trade and economic cooperation between China and ASEAN, according to a joint statement of the consultations.

China remained ASEAN’s largest trading partner since 2009 while ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner for the first time in the first half of this year, the statement said, noting that last year the total merchandise trade between the two sides reached $507.9 billion and foreign direct investment flows from China to ASEAN totaled $9.1 billion.

The ministers reaffirmed the importance of strengthened cooperation to promote trade and investment for economic recovery and acknowledged the important role of the rules-based multilateral trading system in driving post-pandemic economic recovery, according to the statement.

They reiterated their support to ensure the enforcement of existing international rules as well as for the WTO reform to uphold a free, open, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment, it said.

The ministers hailed the Joint Statement on Enhancing Cooperation under Free Trade Area (FTA) and Combating COVID-19 as “a deliverable” at Thursday’s consultations, which sent a positive signal of utilizing FTA to promote trade and investment, maintain regional and global supply chains, mitigate the pandemic’s economic impact, and build a stronger economic region, according to the statement.

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The ministers also welcomed China’s organization of the third China International Import Expo to be held in Shanghai in early November and the 17th China-ASEAN Expo to be held in Nanning, capital of Southwest China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in late November.

Via China Daily