President Xi Jinping announced on Monday several major initiatives to boost economic cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including striving to import $150 billion worth of agricultural products from ASEAN members over the next five years, offering additional financial assistance to the bloc’s economic recovery and anti-epidemic efforts, as well as providing advanced technology.
The initiatives, particularly the plan to nearly double imports of ASEAN agricultural products, demonstrate China’s determination to boost bilateral cooperation and help revive the bloc’s economy while also injecting certainty into the world amid global geopolitical complexities, analysts said.
On the economic front, Xi proposed several initiatives for deepening cooperation between China and ASEAN, including calling for working toward a new round of upgrading of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area at an early date, and increasing high-quality imports from the bloc. Xi proposed to buy up to $150 billion worth of agricultural products from ASEAN in the next five years.
According to the Global Times’ calculations, the $150 billion could mean China may almost double its farm imports from ASEAN in the next five years. In 2018, China imported $18.48 billion worth of agricultural products from ASEAN members, according to an article published on agri.cn, a website under China’s agriculture ministry, citing an industry report.
“The commitment comes as agricultural cooperation between China and ASEAN has been expanding in recent years. Apart from major categories such as tropical fruits, China also stepped up imports of rice and soybean meal during trade conflicts with the US,” Jiao Shanwei, editor-in-chief of cngrain.com, a website specializing in grain news, told the Global Times on Monday.
China has signed more than 30 bilateral agricultural cooperation agreements with ASEAN members and implemented more than 200 agricultural technology exchange projects. In 2020, bilateral trade of agricultural products reached $43 billion, accounting for 17.2 percent of China’s total foreign agricultural trade, official data showed.