A Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting took place in Beijing on August 29 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the strategic partnership between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China.

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh led a delegation to the event.

During the meeting, the ministers shared their positive views on the comprehensive development and important achievements in bilateral cooperation during the past decade in all fields, including politics, economics, trade, investment, culture and people-to-people exchange.

At present, ASEAN-China cooperation has been implemented deeply and widely through more than 40 mechanisms, with two-way trade surpassing 400 billion USD last year, eight times higher than that of 2003. China is now the largest trade partner of ASEAN, while the latter the third largest of the former.

Total two-way investment also rose four times to 100 billion USD in 2012. The number of tourists travelling between the bloc and China reached 15 million, a fivefold increase compared to that of 10 years ago.

The ministers said the robust and comprehensive development over the past time has made ASEAN-China relations one of the key pillars in regional cooperation, positively contributing to common peace, stability, development and prosperity.

They agreed that in the future, ASEAN and China need to make use of the existing development impetus and recorded achievements to lift their strategic partnership to a new height to make greater contributions to regional peace, stability and development.

On this basis, the two sides will continue strengthening dialogue, consultations and cooperation in politics, and security to reinforce mutual trust. They will also step up economic, trade and investment cooperation and effectively implement the ASEAN-China free trade agreement (FTA), and work closely to finalise a regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) in East Asia , they said.

They will consider a proposal on upgrading their FTA, aiming for 500 billion USD in two-way trade by 2015.

The ministers underscored the need to further connectivity, especially in infrastructure, and boost cultural and people-to-people exchanges, while fostering links among enterprises, strengthening maritime cooperation and coordination in coping with non-traditional security issues such as climate change, natural disasters, pandemics, transnational crimes, energy and food security.

They highlighted the necessity to work more closely to be well-prepared for the 16 th ASEAN-China Summit in October, including the drafting of a joint statement to fuel and guide the development of their strategic partnership in the future.

The meeting also gave much space to underline the significance of maintaining peace, stability and maritime security, safety and freedom, as well as the peaceful settlement of disputes in the East Sea based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS), the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (COC) and the soon formation of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea.

The ministers applauded the decision to conduct the first official consultations at the Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) between ASEAN and China on COC scheduled for next month in Suzhou , China .

Accordingly, ASEAN will share its stance on the need to promptly build a binding COC stipulating comprehensive principles to ensure peace and prevent conflicts as well as the behaviours of each party on the basis of complying with international law and the 1982 UNCLOS.

During the conference and meetings between ASEAN foreign ministers and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and State Councillor Yang Jiechi, the Chinese side affirmed its consistent policy of attaching importance to building friendly neighbourliness and mutual beneficial cooperation with ASEAN.

It gives high priority to ASEAN in its foreign policy and supports the group’s central role in the regional architecture. It also pledges to continue backing ASEAN in its efforts to build community, implement regional connectivity and narrow development gap.

China reiterates its policy of peaceful and friendly development, creating a momentum for the development of the region as a whole and ASEAN in particular.

Referring to exchanges, China proposes the joint research of upgrading the ASEAN-China FTA, setting up the Asian Credit Transfer System, Monetary Fund, and Financial and Investment Fund in hope to fund infrastructure projects.

China affirms to continue cooperating with ASEAN in ensuring peace in the East Sea and fully implementing the DOC towards the COC, thus turning the East Sea into a sea of reliance, cooperation and development.

Attending the meeting, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh made positive assessments on the intensive and extensive development of ASEAN-China cooperation.

That China has become ASEAN’s first strategic partner, the first one joining the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) and the negotiations to establish the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area symbolises the special relations between the two sides, laying an important foundation for ceaseless development and great achievements in bilateral cooperation.

The two sides should continue to strengthen cooperation, mutual understanding and trust via consultation and dialogue, the FM stressed.

China and ASEAN also need to cooperate in building an ASEAN-centred regional architecture suitable for peace, stability and development by promoting the East Asia connectivity process, coordination in dealing with non-traditional security challenges and enhancing maritime security cooperation, he added.

He said the two sides should support the strengthening of ASEAN-China connectivity, especially in infrastructure development and transport connectivity, including the promotion of Mekong basin cooperation and the initiative “Two corridors, one economic belt”.

They should also foster cultural and people-to-people exchanges and boost tourism, economic, trade and investment cooperation by maximizing mechanisms such as ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, ASEAN-China Centre, and China-ASEAN Expo, Minh noted.

The FM stressed the importance of maintaining peace, stability and maritime security, safety and freedom in the East Sea, welcoming the past progress between China and ASEAN.

He said that the full and effective implementation of DOC and the early establishment of COC will contribute to enhancing trust and ensuring peace, stability and security in the region.

On this occasion, Foreign Minister Minh held a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, during which both sides spoke highly of the important outcomes of the visits made by the two countries’ high-ranking leaders and new developments in their relations.

They affirmed that the two sides will continue working together to effectively realise their leaders’ common perceptions, and an action programme on implementing the Vietnam-China comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in all fields.

They agreed to coordinate in organising the second Vietnam-China Youth Festival in Guangxi in late 2013 and soon kick off construction of the Vietnam-China Friendship Palace and establish a cultural centre in each country.

The two FMs also affirmed close coordination between the two sides to ensure the success of the meeting between Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning next month, contributing to further developing the two countries’ relations.

Regarding the ASEAN-China relationship, FM Minh spoke highly of this special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, saying the ASEAN-China strategic partnership has reaped many positive achievements over the past decade, bringing practical benefits to both sides.

He affirmed that Vietnam will continue working closely with the Chinese side to further strengthen this partnership.

He also expressed his hope that through this special meeting, ASEAN and China will review their cooperation over the past 10 years, as well as work out directions to develop bilateral relationship in the time to come.-VNA