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ASEAN-China Seminar Explores Economic Integration Amid Global Trade Turbulence

21 April 2024

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Kuala Lumpur, 21 April 2024: The Guangzhou Institute of GBA (GIG), in collaboration with Belt and Road Initiative Caucus for Asia Pacific (BRICAP) and Sunway University, convened a seminar titled ‘Exploring the Feasibility of a China-ASEAN Common Market.’ Positioned as a platform for cross-border dialogue, the seminar was attended by esteemed representatives from ASEAN and China, spanning governments, think tanks, academia, businesses, and non-profit organisations. Intending to solicit diverse insights and perspectives, the seminar signals a concerted effort to deepen economic ties and foster collaborative opportunities between the two regions. The session was opened by the Malaysian Former Minister of Transport, Ong Tee Keat and closed by the Malaysian Former Minister of Trade, Mustapa Mohamed.

Dr Lili Yan Ing, Senior Economist at ERIA, who also serves as the Secretary General of the International Economic Association, began by discussing ASEAN's rise within the tumultuous currents of global trade tensions, leveraging compelling data to underscore the region's burgeoning significance in the semiconductor and digital economies. Against the backdrop of escalating US-China trade tensions, ASEAN is emerging as a bastion of stability and opportunity, exemplified by its starkly contrasting foreign direct investment (FDI) trends compared to China. With FDI surging by 45.3% in 2022 and persisting into 2023, ASEAN's resilience shines through, positioning the region as an attractive investment destination amid geopolitical uncertainties.

ASEAN's ascent in the semiconductor sector is equally remarkable, as evidenced by its rapid growth in exports, outpacing even China's trajectory. Revenue projections further affirm ASEAN's prowess, with the semiconductor market anticipated to reach $101.8 billion in 2024, fuelled by significant contributions from countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.

Transitioning to the digital economy, Dr Ing underscored ASEAN's demographic dividend and surging internet penetration as key catalysts for growth. With 70% of its population being internet users and a digital economy soaring to $259 billion in 2023, ASEAN stands poised to harness the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, challenges loom on the horizon, notably the decline in manufacturing value-added and domestic pressures stemming from political uncertainties. Addressing these hurdles while maintaining neutrality, transparency, and cooperation will be essential in unlocking ASEAN's full potential, ensuring sustained growth and prosperity in the semiconductor and digital landscapes for years to come.

Dr Kirida Bhaopictr of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) highlighted investment opportunities and collaboration between ASEAN and China, noting China's dominance as Thailand's top trading partner. This emphasised the need for strategic partnerships to foster mutual growth. Similarly, Professor Mahendhiran Nair, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Sunway University, stressed the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) investment for economic development, advocating for ASEAN-China cooperation to leverage China's technological prowess for shared prosperity.


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