Chinese Premier Li Qiang is attending the China-Asean Summit, the Asean Plus Three Summit and the 18th East Asia Summit from Tuesday until today to discuss East Asia integration and cooperation with Asean members and other dialogue partners.
Indonesia's as Asean chair in 2023 is pursuing a vision of "Asean Matters: Epicentrum of Growth". This vision is rooted in Asean's understanding of the current global situation and Asean's role in anchoring global stability. Asean stresses that the world is becoming increasingly complex, and great power rivalries remain sharp. Open conflicts need to be managed so that new wars do not arise. Southeast Asia lies at the centre of these dynamics. Indonesia, as chair, aims to focus on making Asean a stable and peaceful region as the anchor of global stability.
Asean's essential relevance largely depends on its collective will and capacity to maintain an open and inclusive framework for regional cooperation, adhering to true multilateralism and opposing the use of "small circles" to create divisions and undermine regional peace and stability.
Over the years, an Asean-centred institutional network for regional cooperation has been formed, playing an irreplaceable role in maintaining regional peace, stability and prosperity. In the face of rising geopolitical tensions, the East Asia Summit serves as a platform for dialogue and consultation among the countries in the region, enhancing mutual understanding and trust, resolving differences properly, not decoupling and not moving towards confrontation. Indonesia held the Asean-Indo Pacific Forum on Tuesday in parallel with the 43rd Asean Summit and the East Asia Summit, which is a showcase of Asean's efforts to strengthen its role in regional stability, peace and prosperity and promote stronger and more inclusive cooperation.
This vision is also based on Asean's robust economic performance. The threat of global economic recession is looming, as global economic growth this year is estimated to be at 2.7%, decreasing from 3.2% last year and 6% in 2021. Even against this backdrop, economic growth in Southeast Asia remains strong. Last year, the Asean economy recorded a growth rate of 5.7% total trade achieved $3.8 trillion, with a growth rate of 14.9%. Indonesia aims to reaffirm Asean as an epicentrum of growth and make Asean the world's engine of sustainable growth.
Challenges lie ahead for Asean to maintain its status as the epicentrum of growth. Inflation has been more persistent than expected, driven in large part by the ongoing conflicts in Eastern Europe. Prolonged monetary policy tightening is introducing risks to financial stability. Escalated geopolitical tensions and the potential for economic fragmentation pose threats to long-term growth prospects for the region. To continue advancing its prosperity, Asean leaders agreed to prioritise the effective implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, continuously upgrade its internal and external FTAs to ensure that they are relevant, modern, forward-looking and responsive to the emerging trends and developments and play a central role in shaping the evolving regional economic architecture, reinforcing its commitment to multilateralism and promoting economic integration.
China is ready to work with Asean to create regional growth centres and promote common development. China has emerged as the largest bilateral trading partner, accounting for a total trade value of $722.2 billion, equivalent to 18.8% of Asean's overall trade. As an important development in this regard, China and Asean have announced the official launch of negotiations on China-Asean Free Trade Area 3.0 to further improve the quality and level of trade and investment cooperation, achieve deeper integration of the industrial supply chain and value chain and allow more Asean enterprises to share China's opportunities.
China is committed to promoting the process of regional economic integration and building a more open and inclusive platform for regional economic and trade cooperation. As the world's largest free trade bloc with the greatest development potential, RCEP's effective implementation is an important milestone in the process of East Asian economic integration. It is necessary to make full use of the open market commitments and rules and release the benefits of the agreement to a greater extent.
China has worked together with Asean countries to improve their capacities to implement the agreement and is willing to continue to make contributions to this end in the future. China supports the early establishment of the RCEP Secretariat to carry out day-to-day work and to provide technical support for high-quality implementation of the agreement.
Han Zhili, a special commentator on current affairs for China Global Television Network, is associate research professor at the Institute of Asian Studies, China Foreign Affairs University.