Guangxi optimistic about trade with Asean despite tensions over territorial disputes

Officials say disputes with some Asean nations won't hurt region's economic ties with the bloc

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 11:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 2:33am

Despite diplomatic tensions between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours, Guangxi remains upbeat about its positioning as a trade hub with The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), according to regional officials.

Guangxi has the geographic advantage of proximity to not only Asean countries, but also the financial centre of Hong Kong and the manufacturing base of Guangdong. In 2005, Guangxi opened the Nanning-Youyiguan expressway, the first highway connecting China with Asean via Vietnam.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement in November 2002 and and a Joint Declaration of the Heads of State/Government on Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in October 2003. Since then, economic ties have been growing rapidly in the southern autonomous region of Guangxi, where the trade volume hit US$6.14 billion (HK$47.6 billion) in the first half of 2013.

In the Qinzhou Free Trade Port Area alone, trade volumes exceeded US$1 billion (HK$7.75 billion) in the first ten months of this year. The area was established by the State Council in February 2011 and consists of a port working area, logistics area, export processing area and service area to promote regional economic integration.

“We handled only about 470,000 tons of cargo this year so far, but it’s a huge leap from only 74,000 the year before,” said Ding Qiwen, head of the Investment Promotion Department of the Qinzhou Free Trade Port Area, in an interview last week.

“There’s a saying that the first 800,000 tons are the hardest, after that, getting to two, three, million tons won’t be a problem. We’re aiming for the one hundred million mark,” Ding added.

Asean has been Guangxi’s largest trade partner for the past 13 consecutive years, and businesses remain optimistic about the relationship in spite of territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas between Beijing and several Asean countries, in particular the Philippines.

Long Xiangbing, head of marketing of Guangxi-based Beitou Burgundy Red Wine Cellar International, which imports wine and coffee from Asean countries, said the chances of such tensions affecting trade were low.

“Of course it affects us, but the effect is very minimal and we’re not worried,” Long said.

Ding agreed. “Trade with the Philippines has cooled, that’s to be expected. But there’s also Malaysia and Vietnam, so we believe our trade volumes will continue to grow rapidly”.