China-ASEAN Monitor: ASEAN+3 leaders meet online to discuss COVID-19
Economy, Investment and Trade
ASEAN+3 leaders meet online to discuss COVID-19
(14 April 2020) ASEAN leaders and their three ASEAN partners, namely China, South Korea and Japan, discussed initiatives to strengthen cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The online ASEAN Special Summit and ASEAN+3 Special Summit on COVID-19 response took place on 14 April and was chaired in Hanoi by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. The leaders discussed measures to protect people’s interests and ease socio-economic impacts caused by pandemic, and put forward a post-pandemic recovery plan. ASEAN leaders noted the lessons that could be learned from the way China, South Korea and Japan managed the pandemic. In terms of the economy, the leaders pledged to maintain open markets, expedite the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), diversify the connectivity of supply sources in and outside the region, and ensure the flow of goods and services, particularly essential medical materials and products.
Cambodia, China conclude second round of FTA negotiations
(11 April 2020) Cambodia and China have wrapped up the second round of negotiations of a free trade agreement (FTA). Held on 10 April, the negotiation meeting was co-chaired by Sok Sopheak, Secretary of State at the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce and Yang Zhengwei, Deputy Director-General of China’s Ministry of Commerce, and held via video conference. Both countries agreed to conclude the remaining issues by May 2020, before the third round of negotiations, scheduled for June 2020. The FTA between Cambodia and China is expected to contribute to the recovery of the two countries which have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first round of negotiations was previously held in Beijing in January 2020.
Myanmar trucks stopped at China border crossing due to COVID-19 restrictions
(13 April 2020) Around 300 trucks that transport bananas and watermelons to China daily via a border crossing in the Myanmar town of Lweje near Longchuan County in southwest China’s Yunnan province were not permitted to enter China on 13 April. A media report on 10 April revealed that Chinese authorities have restricted their drivers from entering Myanmar and since 1 April have required Myanmar traders in northern Shan state to pay Chinese drivers 10 yuan each (US$1.40) to transport truckloads of rice and fruit from border crossings to local cargo facilities. Truck drivers say China’s policy of handing over their vehicle keys to Chinese drivers is being enforced at border crossings in Kachin state and they are concerned about their vehicles if this rule is enforced. Myanmar government officials have met with Chinese authorities to try to resolve the issue and come up with alternatives.
Chinese medical team conclude anti-epidemic training in Laos
(11 April 2020) China’s anti-epidemic medical expert team has completed its experience sharing and training programme for central Laos’ backbone staff in hospital, prevention and control departments. According to He Wei, the liaison official of the Chinese expert team, the team has conducted the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment programme, hospital infection prevention and protection, and epidemiological survey of COVID-19, guidelines for personal protection, among others, for central Laos’ four provincial regions, including three provinces and the capital Vientiane. The team concluded the anti-epidemic training in all the 18 provincial regions in Laos on 11 April. The Lao side expressed gratitude to the Chinese team for dispatching the expert team to assist Laos immediately.
Vietnam restricts exports to China over stringent border controls
(10 April 2020) Due to stringent import measures imposed by China in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam will only allow exports through official channels. On 9 April, Its Ministry of Industry and Trade said that the recently imposed more stringent measures were to limit the immigration of people and transport from Vietnam as China seeks to prevent the entry of COVID-19 from outside the country. Border gates between Vietnam and China have not resumed full operations due to protective measures imposed by both countries. As of 8 April, there were nearly 1,700 containers stuck at the Vietnamese side of the border, mostly carrying fruits. The trade ministry will work with Chinese officials to ensure commerce continues under safe conditions. According to ministry estimates, fruit exports from Vietnam to China in the first quarter of 2020 fell 29.4% year-on-year to US$300 million as the pandemic halted normal trade.