PHNOM PENH, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet said on Sunday that the China-ASEAN Expo has created synergies to increase trade between the two sides.
The Cambodian leader made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the 20th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, according to a statement of his speech released to the media.
Manet said amid global uncertainties, holding the China-ASEAN Expo was significant in forging closer and harmonious regional relations and helping to promote sustainable development.
He said cooperation combined with free and open trade is the only path to peace and shared prosperity, and China and ASEAN have enjoyed excellent cooperation through the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, and many bilateral trade agreements.
"Within these frameworks, this expo is a concrete activity that creates synergies to increase trade between ASEAN and China," Manet said.
Meanwhile, the Cambodian leader said trade should not be used as a weapon that undermines global economic security.
"In this sense, ASEAN and China are key players," he said. "We can show the world examples of tangible benefits of strengthening multilateral cooperation, without leaning towards protectionism, unilateralism or economic nationalism."
Joseph Matthews, senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said the expo was a testament to China-ASEAN's unwavering commitment to promote free trade and multilateralism.
"This annual event truly demonstrates China's unfettered commitment to further opening up its economy and huge market for ASEAN and is an open message to the world that China is open for businesses," he told Xinhua.
"It will help accelerate the momentum of the current economic cooperation between China and ASEAN, and through it, trade and investment volumes between the two sides will further increase," Matthews added.
Kin Phea, director general of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, a think tank under the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said China and ASEAN have become the largest trading partners and their bilateral trade volume has maintained the strong momentum of growth.
"Closer China-ASEAN ties are even more important to ensure long-lasting peace, security, stability, food security, sustainable development and prosperity in the region," he told Xinhua. "China and ASEAN are the guardians of peace, security and stability in the Asia-Pacific."
Phea said trade and investment ties between China and ASEAN have become closer under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the CAFTA and RCEP.
"China and ASEAN are major forces in promoting free trade and multilateralism against the backdrop of protectionism and unilateralism," he said.
"Their cooperation has provided mutually beneficial and win-win results, and it's essential for the two sides to maintain this relationship and prevent any external attempts from harming it."
ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ■