2008 Forum on Pan Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation was held from July 30 to 31, 2008 in Beihai, Guangxi, China. This forum was jointly sponsored by National Development and Reform Commission of China, China’s Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Commerce, the People’s Bank of China, General Administration of Customs, National Tourism Administration, Development Research Center of the State Council, People’s Daily, China Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Guangxi Government and Hainan Government. Over 600 participants attended the forum. They were Chinese national leaders, leaders of the 12 sponsors, secretary-general and deputy secretary-general of ASEAN, government officials, experts, scholars, representatives from well-known enterprises at home and abroad, and Chinese and foreign news reporters. In addition Chinese diplomats to ASEAN countries and officials from institutions of ASEAN, European and American countries in China were also present at the forum. Zheng Wantong, Vice Chairman, of National Political Consultative Conference, and Li Wuwei, Vice Chairman of National Political Consultative Conference, attended the forum and made a speech and delivered a theme presentation respectively. Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO sent his letter of congratulations to the forum. Robert John Aumann, 2005 Nobel Prize winner in economics and Robert A. Mundell, Professor of Columbia University also participated in the forum. The forum focused on the theme of “co-build the new growth pole in China and ASEAN—communication, cooperation and prosperity”. Participants discussed the three topics of “Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation against the background world of economic imbalance and uncertainty”, “the focus, difficulties and trends in Pan Beibu Gulf sub-region economic cooperation” and “the opening up of Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone and Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation”. All together 46 participants made speeches or delivered presentations at the forum and during the forum the Joint Expert Group of Pan Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation held the first work meeting. The forum was completed in great success.
1. This forum was held when the world economic development was facing imbalance and uncertainty, when new progress had been made in Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation, and when the Chinese Government had approved the implementation of “Development Plan for Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone” and the establishment of Guangxi Qinzhou Bonded Port Zone. No country can cope with challenges by itself in the uncertainty of world economy and therefore, it is crucial to work together and pool efforts in face of difficulties. The forum has brought about new opportunities to promote cooperation in East Asia and played a positive role in building up awareness of cooperation in the new situation, in exploring various means of cooperation, in verifying focuses of cooperation, and in setting goals and formulating mechanisms of cooperation.
2. In the last two years progress has been made in Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation. The regional cooperation through the efforts joined at the forum is bringing about more and more highlights and hot points of economic cooperation. Some cooperation projects have been implemented. Ministers of transportation from China and ASEAN countries have announced “Joint Statement of China-ASEAN Port Development & Cooperation”, signed “Agreement on China-ASEAN Marine Transportation” and “Framework Agreement on China-ASEAN Aviation Cooperation”. The highways and railroads along Nanning-Singapore corridor are being improved. The tourist route from Beihai, Guangxi to Halong Bay, Vietnam is open for business. The tourist marine lines in the Pan Beibu Gulf Region will be kicked off soon. Cooperation has been initiated in agriculture, forestry, fishery, marine and energy industries. The business and trade relationships have been greatly strengthened. In 2007 the trade volume between China and ASEAN countries reached 202.55 billion USD, increasing by 25.9%., three years in advance achieving the goal set by leaders of the two sides. The total trade volume between China and the seven countries in Pan Beibu Gulf Region hit 199.27 billion USD, increasing by 25.8%, accounting for 98.4% of the total trade volume between China and ASEAN countries. In 2007 the trade volume between Guangxi and the seven countries in Pan Beibu Gulf Region hit 2.88 billion USD, increasing by 58.4% compared with that of the previous year. The total investment in Guangxi from ASEAN countries has increased by 3.5 times as compared with that in the same period last year and the actual amount of investment has increased by over 5 times. For successive eight years ASEAN has been the largest trade partner of Guangxi.
3. At the invitation of the People’s Republic of China, representatives from Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Asian Development Bank held the first work meeting of the Joint Experts Group of Pan Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation. The Secretariat of ASEAN attended the meeting as an observer. It was agreed at the meeting that Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation would play an important role in further speeding up the construction of China-ASEAN free trade area, integrate the economy and promote social and economic development in the countries involved. Participants agreed to enhance exchange and coordination and include the new Pan Beibu Gulf sub-regional cooperation in the framework of the construction of China-ASEAN free trade area. The meeting discussed the work plan of the Joint Expert Group and the feasibility study outline of Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation. It was agreed at the meeting that Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation would be a supplement of the existing sub-regional cooperation mechanism, such as the Great Mekong River Sub-regional Cooperation. It was required at the meeting that the Secretariat of ASEAN should submit the summary of this meeting to the senior officials’ meeting to be held in August, 2008 and to the China-ASEAN Economic Consulting Mechanism for examination so as to obtain further directions on this issue.
4. Countries in this region should give priorities for breakthroughs in Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation which should be included as quickly as possible in the general strategic plan of overall cooperation between China and ASEAN countries and it is important to make clear that Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation is a new sub-regional cooperation within the 10+1 China ASEAN cooperative framework. It should establish a cooperative mechanism of governments at various levels as quickly as possible to study, negotiate, coordinate and solve practical problems, and set up correspondent working institutions to implement projects agreed upon by parties involved. It is necessary to enhance cooperation in agriculture, fishery and industries related to people’s life. Against the background of the present world food shortage, it is imperative to improve grain and food production and its trade environment, promote the development and popularization of agricultural technology and cooperation in agricultural products processing, and build up marine passageways for the safety supply of food. It is important to further cooperation in energy development, especially in new energy development. Based on the cooperation in traditional energy development, countries involved should strengthen cooperation in new energy development and utilization, such as the rich solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, and non-grain biomass energies from cassava fuel alcohol and palm oil diesel, so as to solve regional energy problems. Countries involved should cooperate in the development and construction of functional zones in the region. Port cities along the Pan Beibu Gulf, if conditions permit, can set up free port zones, bonded logistics zones, export-oriented processing zones in terms of customs regulations and promote cooperation among these zones. As the import and export develop rapidly, it set forth higher demand for the transportation infrastructure. Countries in this region should strengthen cooperation in transportation infrastructure construction to establish a comprehensive transportation system, improve its conditions and provide better and more convenient transportation service in the region. Transportation is a foundation of Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation. Countries in this region should promote cooperation in tourism according to the work plan of tourism development in the region. Tourism administrations, tourist institutions, tourist cities and enterprises in this region should join hands and set up a regional tourism cooperation mechanism that will involve various parties in practical cooperation for win-win results. In addition countries in this region should cooperate in building up a new information cooperation mechanism and establishing a shared information platform.
5. In order to promote Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation it is necessary to encourage financial innovations. Finance is the core of a region’s economic development. Countries in this region should continue cooperation with local financial institutions and set up a credit platform and investment and financing platform. At the same time they should encourage financial innovations, explore the possibility of establishing investment funds and develop investment enterprises for business start-ups. Countries involved should improve financial ecological environment, set up a shared risk warning mechanism, encourage and promote financial product innovation and coordination within their jurisdiction, and build up a payment and settlement system in the region. It is important to establish and improve the infrastructure network of financial service, including the shared information platform, prevent and dissolve financial crisis. Moreover, countries in this region should enhance interactions among commercial banks, investment banks, insurance, lease and other non-banking financial businesses so as to meet comprehensive package needs of clients.
6. To promote Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation countries in this region should make great effort to improve the environment for the convenience of investment and trade. Drafting of measures to make transportation, trade, investment and customs procedures simple and convenient is a guarantee to the acceleration of regional integration, sensible flows and optimal allocations of production factors and achieve the momentum of development and competitive advantages in the region. Based on the bilateral cooperation in product quality inspection, countries involved should initiate dialogues and exchanges to work out effective ways to solve problems of products quality inspection in bilateral trade. Countries in the Pan Beibu Gulf Economic Region should further cooperation in technical regulations, standards, qualifications and assessment procedures of import and export agricultural and industrial products in terms of their safety, hygiene, environment protection and consumers’ right protection etc. It is important to strengthen cooperation to share information about product quality inspection in terms of laws, regulations, standards and unqualified products so as to provide good information service for governments and enterprises in the countries of the region. In addition it is also imperative to enhance technical support capacity building and jointly improve the legislation, execution and laboratory testing technology of product inspection in these countries.
7. To promote Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation, it is important to bring the role of culture into full play. Countries in Pan Beibu Gulf region have long histories and rich cultures. Therefore, they should further promote inter-cultural exchanges so that they will contribute to the cohesiveness of Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation. It is necessary to establish and improve cooperative mechanisms in the areas of science and technology, education, culture, public health and sports and encourage official and people-to-people visits to promote cultural exchange and cooperation. On one hand, it is important to have the awareness win-win cooperation and understand the relationship between the development of each country and the development of Pan Beibu Gulf Region as a whole. On the other, countries should encourage official and people-to- people exchanges and dialogues to consolidate the traditional friendships while opening more areas, channels and levels for cultural exchange and cooperation.
8. To promote Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation, it is important to take Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone as a key base and bring its core role into full play in Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation. The strategy is to open up with the support of cooperation and cooperate to promote development. With the support of Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation, Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone will improve its development and in return the development of Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone will expand areas and room of Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation so as to create a situation of mutual promotion and virtuous interactions.
Countries in Pan Beibu Gulf Economic Region should initiate all-round cooperation in manufacturing industry and further cooperation in industries of petroleum and chemical engineering, energy, iron and steel, forest pulp production, electronic information technology, bio-pharmaceuticals, aluminium processing, agricultural product processing, ship building and maintenance and marine development. Meanwhile they need to promote cooperation in port and transportation, enhance exchange and cooperation in harbor construction, warehousing and logistics, opening new airline flights, port information technology and professional training so as to bring impetus to port and logistic development, build modern port clusters along the coast in the region and explore the possibility of establishing Pan Beibu Gulf Port Consortium. Countries in involved should also strengthen cooperation in railroads, highways, and water navigation and aviation transportation. They can jointly participate in the construction of Qinzhou Bonded Port and build a more convenient platform of better perspective for enterprises of port navigation, logistics and the manufacturing industry. Countries in this region can cooperate in the construction of city clusters, explore the possibilities of establishing Pan Beibu Gulf city consortium and build city cultures of vitality. In addition, countries in this region should bring advantages of their cities with special features into full play, enhance cooperation in tourism and financial service, strengthen coordination and communication among tourist institutions in terms of tourist development planning and tourist market sources and jointly build Pan Beibu Gulf tourist circle. Countries in the region should also enhance cooperation to set up financial institution branches reciprocally to promote financial cooperation onto a new stage.
9. To promote Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation, it is necessary to bring into the role of the mechanism and platform of the Forum on Pan Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation into full play and make it an influential regional international forum where countries can regularly discuss problems, join consensus and seek for solutions to problems. And based on this, parties involved can turn the forum into an important platform for Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation. It is suggested that when conditions permit, countries in the region set up a permanent liaison office or secretariat of Pan Beibu Gulf economic cooperation to coordinate the cooperation so as to establish a stable system for the cooperation.