BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — China maintained its position as ASEAN’s top trading partner despite the ongoing pandemic that has disrupted economic activities all over the world, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah said on Friday.

In his titah at the virtual opening ceremony of the 18th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning, China, His Majesty said ASEAN and China registered an increase in total merchandise trade in 2020.

This underscored the strong economic ties and business linkages that characterised the long-standing relationship between ASEAN and China, he added.

Trade between China and ASEAN reached US$684.6 billion last year.

China has been the regional bloc’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years. As of June this year, mutual investment between China and ASEAN exceeded US$310 billion.

A screenshot of HM the Sultan delivering his titah at the virtual opening ceremony of the 18th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning. Photo: Courtesy of MoFE

As the 2021 chair of ASEAN, the monarch said the 18th CAEXPO bears special significance as Brunei and China celebrate its 30th anniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue relations. 

Both countries also mark their 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.

“The BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) is a significant plan that would enhance regional connectivity to bring countries closer together.

“It could also present opportunities for countries to work together in many areas and through sub-regional fora such as BIMP-EAGA, which would further contribute to the inclusive revitalisation of their economies,” His Majesty added.

The sultan is confident that these initiatives would continue to make China an attractive export destination for ASEAN products, help boost trade relations and maintain China’s position as one of the regional grouping’s top trading partners. 

Held from September 10 to 13, this year’s CAEXPO is held in a hybrid format that combines in-person and virtual events.

The CAEXPO is an international economic and trade event that seeks to promote investment, tourism and strengthen of economic ties between ASEAN and China.

The theme of this year’s expo is “Advancing Quality Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Cooperation, Promoting Sustainable Development”.