Hanoi (VNA) – Growing economic and trade relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are crucial to securing long-term peace and shared prosperity in the region, Xinhua News Agency cited Cambodian officials, scholars and exporters as saying.

For the first time since 1997, ASEAN surpassed the US to become China’s second largest trade partner in the first half of 2019.

China’s customs data showed that two-way trade rose 10.5 percent to nearly 2 trillion yuan (291 billion USD) in the first six months of this year. In the period, China’s trade with the US dropped 9 percent to 1.8 trillion yuan (262 billion USD).

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute, said China is the top trading partner of ASEAN while ASEAN is the second largest trading partner of China.

"The increasing economic interdependence between the two economies is the cornerstone of long-term peace and shared prosperity in the region," he said.

Against the backdrop of rising protectionism and unilateralism, the two sides should deepen their economic integration and advance inclusive, open, effective and rules-based multilateral system, he added.

Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said the steady growth of economic and trade ties between ASEAN and China was underpinned by strategic mutual trust and confidence between the two sides.

Ministry of Commerce Under Secretary of State and Spokesman Seang Thay said China has been one of ASEAN's most important trade and investment partners and vice versa thanks to geographic proximity and bilateral strategic partnership.

ASEAN and China have so far cooperated very well in economic and trade sectors, he said, adding that with joint efforts and high commitments of the two sides’ leaders, two-way trade will continue rising in the coming years.

The spokesman added that the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, which is expected to be concluded by the end of this year, will become a new booster for the development of bilateral economic and trade exchanges.

Established in 1967, ASEAN groups Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.-VNA