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Closer ties with ASEAN expected

China and ASEAN member countries expressed support on Tuesday for closer economic and trade cooperation in a wide range of sectors, ranging from traditional industrial capacity to high-tech innovation.

Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli said at the opening ceremony of the 14th China-ASEAN Expo that the country is ready to synergize the strategies to speed up regional economic integration, in order to inject impetus into global economic growth.

The country will press ahead with industrial capacity cooperation with partners from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in such fields as "clean energy, modern communications, cement, electricity, and iron and steel", Zhang said.

"China's cost-effective equipment technology transfer, well-trained personnel and financial support can enable us to find more competitive edges jointly with ASEAN countries."

The expo opened on Tuesday in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The expo was attended by leaders from 10 ASEAN countries, as well as high-level officials from Kazakhstan. For the first time, the event is hosting leaders representing nations beyond the China-ASEAN region.

"We need to keep abreast of the new trend of cutting-edge technologies including intelligent manufacturing, Internet Plus, digital economy and shared economy," said Zhang.

One example is cyber connectivity. Zhang said China will work with ASEAN members to boost the development of cross-border cyber and other communication networks, and accelerate the building of an information harbor between the two sides.

Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Brunei Darussalam's Sultan, said China's proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative can help meet global challenges such as anti-globalization and trade protectionism.

Key areas for future cooperation, he said, are infrastructure investment, trade, investment, and most importantly, people-to-people interaction.

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen said the annual expo and other cooperation mechanisms will help China, ASEAN countries, and even Asia at large, become a very attractive and competitive region.

Official data show China is ASEAN's largest trading partner. ASEAN is China's third-largest partner, and the major destination of overseas Chinese investment.

China will upgrade the free trade agreement negotiations under the Belt and Road Initiative, and sign more agreements for currency swaps, investment promotion and protection, and expand yuan settlement, Zhang said.

The country is also striving to boost imports from ASEAN members. Zhang welcomed them to participate in China's first international import expo, which is scheduled to take place next year.