China-ASEAN Monitor


China-ASEAN Monitor

Photo Credit: Financial Tribune

 

Economy, Investment and Trade

China eyes for RCEP conclusion as negotiation makes progress
(5 March 2018) Ministers from 16 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiating countries met in Singapore recently and signalled that conclusion of negotiation by the end of 2018 is possible. The joint RCEP statement said the negotiators noted divergence on the level of ambition in some areas and tasked negotiators to work out creative, innovative and pragmatic landing zone. Despite some chapters are close to being finalised, huge gaps remain. India is cautious about granting market access, while Japan and Australia are seeking high standards. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China is looking forward to concluding negotiations on the RCEP at China’s 13th National People’s Congress (NPC).
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China provides funding to Mindanao railway project
(5 March 2018) The Philippines Department of Transportation (DOTr) said the remaining phases of the Mindanao railway project in the southern island of Mindanao will be financed by China’s loan. Phase 1 of the Mindanao railway project, financed by the Philippines Republic Act, General Appropriations Act (GAA), involves the 102.9-km Tagum-Davao-Digos segment which is worth US$807.8 million (31.9 billion pesos). The same segment will see the construction of nine train stations which is expected to be completed by end of 2021 and will reduce travel time from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours once the train starts operating.
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Brunei welcomes China’s new silk road investment as it struggles to diversify its economy
(5 March 2018) China is constructing a refinery, a petrochemical complex and a bridge in Brunei, where the first phase development of a complex on Muara Besar Island, costing US$3.4 billion, will be the largest-ever foreign investment project of Brunei. Total Chinese investment in Brunei is now estimated at US$4.1 billion. China’s Ambassador to Brunei said that Brunei is an important country along the 21st century Maritime Silk Road. Brunei is exploring to diversify and reform its economy as the country oil and gas reserves are expected to run out within two decades. A few western financial institutions have pulled out of Brunei due to its changing fortunes, while Bank of China has instead opened its first branch in December 2016.
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Six ASEAN countries among top 10 favourites of Chinese tourists destinations
(6 March 2018) In 2017, six out of ten ASEAN member states, namely Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines were the top ten favourite destinations of Chinese tourists, according to a report by China Tourism Academy (CTA) and Ctrip, the China’s online travel service company. The report noted that the outbound visits by Chinese residents hit a record high of over 130 million and spending amounted US$115.29 billion in the same year, making China the world’s biggest source of outbound travellers. To embrace the influx of Chinese tourist, tens of thousands of merchants across 30 countries and regions have accepted China’s Alipay and WeChat Pay as payment options to ease Chinese tourists with Chinese language services.
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Foreign Affairs

China and the Philippines to study potential joint exploration in South China Sea
(3 March 2018) The Philippines have identified two possible sites in the South China Sea for potential joint exploration with China for oil and gas, one of which is in the disputed territory. Both countries have agreed to set up a special panel to work on how they can jointly explore those areas without having to address the issue of sovereignty. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the areas being considered were sites covered by service contracts 57 and 72, which are exploration permits issued by Department of Energy (Philippines). In 2016, the Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea that is believed to rich in energy and marine resources.
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Cambodia criticised American aid suspension as it strengthens ties with China
(1 March 2018) The Cambodian government which is strengthening ties with China has criticised the United States following the decision to suspend several Treasury, USAID, and the American military assistance program to the country. The suspension has come after the ruling party Cambodian People’s Party had won all seats in Sunday’s senate elections. Earlier in November 2017, Cambodia’s largest opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by the Supreme Court. Since 1991, over US$1 billion in American aid has been channelled to Cambodia, in the efforts of promoting the democratisation and economic development. Under the Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia has grown closer to China which is one of its largest economic partners. Over the past several years, trade between the nations has increased nearly 30 percent annually, reaching US$4.8 billion in 2016. The same year, foreign direct investment from China reached US$5.1 billion, the most from any nation.
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