Photo credit: Xinhua News Agency
Economy, Investment and Trade
ASEAN leaders head to Beijing for the Belt and Road Forum on April 25-27
(22 April 2019) All 10 ASEAN heads of state will attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) set to be held in Beijing from April 25 to 27, as confirmed by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi during the recent BRF press briefing. According to Wang, the event will comprise 12 thematic forums, a CEO conference, an opening ceremony, a high-level meeting, and a leaders’ roundtable — all held with the primary aim of promoting “the high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation”. A total of 37 heads of state and government, senior representatives from major European and Asian economies, as well as the heads of the International Monetary Fund and United Nations will attend the BRF. Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua has published several interviews with participating leaders in the run-up to the event, including one with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who lauded the Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) role in increasing trade between Southeast Asia and China, and his hope for Malaysia to serve as a hub for Sino-ASEAN maritime trade. Meanwhile, a Philippines’ foreign affairs representative told local media that President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign at least five agreements during his trip to Beijing. While in Cambodia, a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement also provided that a number of aid and cooperation agreements will be signed during Prime Minister Hun Sen’s BRF visit.
The Philippines hosts Boao Forum for Asia in Manila ahead of the BRF
(22 April 2019) The Philippines played host to the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Manila Conference on April 22 and 23, an event that aims to convene high-level private sector leaders from Asia to discuss the BRI and regional development. According to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who represented President Rodrigo Duterte at the conference, the BFA was a prelude to the Belt and Road Forum that will be held in Beijing later this week. In her keynote speech at the BFA, Philippines speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that economic and trade cooperation between the countries was “better than it has ever been”, that China’s economy was in “a class of its own”, and that the local business community was “elated” during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Philippines last November. She added that with the Chinese investments in place, the Philippines must now focus on the implementation and on improving the ease of doing business in the country. Under the Duterte administration, Chinese investment pledges into the Philippines soared by 2,072% in 2018 compared to 2017.
Malaysia’s Sabah to become “sister provinces” with Jiangxi, hopes to boost industrialisation
(21 April 2019) Sabah chief minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal and China’s Jiangxi province governor Yi Lianhong inked a letter of intent in Nanchang City on April 21 to establish a “Sister Province” relationship between the parties. According to Shafie, such a relationship would help boost industrialisation in Sabah and draw more investments to the state. He added that Jiangxi province was an ideal partner due to its geographical proximity and strong economic growth — the province’s GDP notably grew 8.7% last year, reaching US$327.12 billion. Furthermore, Shafie noted that while Sabah has the largest share of Chinese tourist arrivals in Malaysia, the state also had plenty to offer Chinese investors especially in the oil and natural gas industries. Governor Yi, in turn, said that the parties should also look beyond doing business and collaborate in areas such as culture and education.
Thailand’s EEC to sign MoU with China’s Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone (ZAEZ)
(22 April 2019) Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak is slated to visit China’s Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone (ZAEZ) located on Hainan Island on April 27 to 29 to oversee the inking of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and the ZAEZ, according to EEC Office head Kanit Sangsubhan. The MoU will help boost investments, aviation connectivity and integrated supply chains in both economic zones, as well as increase knowledge sharing between the parties on aviation hub development. Furthermore, the Thai government expects the collaboration to boost the country’s GDP by two percentage points every year starting next year. The ZAEZ is China’s first national-level experimental “aerotropolis” which integrates aviation services with a high-speed rail, intercity rail, subway and expressway in order to boost connectivity throughout the supply chain.
Thailand, Laos and China to ink deal on railway links
(23 April 2019) Thailand, Laos and China are expected to sign a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) on the Nong Khai-Vientiane Railway Connecting Line during the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. According to Thai Department of International Economic Affairs head Vilawan Mangklathanakul, the MoC provides that the connecting line will include a bridge to link Thailand with Laos and China. While Vilawan did not elaborate on the details of the project, he shared that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha intends to discuss the possibility of connecting initiatives such as the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) with China’s BRI during his trip to Beijing. Furthermore, Prayut is also expected to tout the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) as the country looks to position the corridor as the region’s supply chain and logistics hub.