Editor's note: Given that China and ASEAN are each other's largest trading partners, how has bilateral trade benefitted the two sides? This is what H.E. Robert Matheus Michael Tene, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Political-Security Community told Liu Xin.
Liu Xin: Trade is very important for China and for ASEAN. And currently, China and ASEAN are each other's largest trading partners, with trade volume soaring 100 times from 30 years ago. Two-way direct investment has also exceeded USD 300 billion. So, in your knowledge, what does a close trade relationship mean for ASEAN-China partnership? And how does that possibly cement political security cooperation and dialogue?
R.M. Michael Tene: Yes, you are very correct. In the past 10 years, I think the trade flows between ASEAN and China have doubled. And as you mentioned, I think, since 2020, from the ASEAN side, China became the largest trading partner of ASEAN. Likewise, from China's side, ASEAN as a group became the largest trading partner of China.
This means that over the decades, the relationship, especially in terms of the trade between ASEAN and China, has been beneficial for both sides. Going forward, we have to make sure that these beneficial trade relations continue to bring prosperity, both to the people of ASEAN, as well as to China, so that all parties benefit from this relationship.
The closer trading relationship between China and ASEAN, of course, has a significant impact in terms of bringing closer and strengthening the foundation for a closer political and security cooperation. That also means that the shared interest of China and ASEAN is more and more becoming interconnected. We both share the common interest of creating prosperity for both of our peoples. At the same time, this prosperity can only be realized if we have a peaceful and stable relationship as well as a peaceful and stable region.
We are looking at an arrangement, RCEP, which will bring greater prosperity to our region, not only for ASEAN and China, but also, the other participants of the RCEP. More importantly, also, the RCEP reflects the commitment of its members to strengthen multilateralism, to strengthen inclusive arrangement and to bring greater prosperity. The RCEP is not an exclusive arrangement.
As you know, after coming into force 18 months after, the RCEP will be open for other countries to join. I think that given in the past few years, we have seen the difficult, greater challenges in the trade relation among many important global players, we have seen the difficulties of making progress in the multilateral forum, the RCEP gives us a strong signal of commitment of its members to continue strengthening the multilateral trade system, which is also open and inclusive.
Liu Xin: The Communist Party of China will convene its 20th National Congress in Beijing this year. What are the ASEAN's expectations for this meeting and how do you look at the potential impact of that meeting on the ASEAN political security community?
R.M. Michael Tene: The Communist Party of China has been successful in the past decades to bring prosperity to the people of China, to lift hundreds of millions of people from poverty. Going forward, I wish continuing success of the Communist Party of China in realizing the aspiration of the Chinese people for a better life. And as I'm sure that we all also agree that the prosperity of China will also have a big impact on the prosperity of our greater region, as well as on the global community.