Opening Speech at the Wrap-up Meeting of Enhancing China-ASEAN Economic Integration: Cross-border Economic Cooperation Zones at the China-Viet Nam Border

21 Jan 2014

Beijing, 21 January 2014

By Mr. Patrick Haverman, Deputy Country Director, UNDP China

Mr. Zhao Yongli,

Mr. Pei Huihuang, Commercial Counsellor

Dear friends and colleagues,

Good morning! It is my great pleasure to join you today at the Wrap-up Meeting of Enhancing China-ASEAN Economic Integration: Cross-border Economic Cooperation Zones at the China-Viet Nam Border. Through my colleagues, I have heard many good things about the project, and therefore it is an honour for me to learn about project achievements and also a pity that my first meeting with all of you is to witness its completion.

Thanks should go to the China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE), which has been making relentless endeavors to push for a successful project over a six-year period, from November 2007 to December 2013. A warm welcome to all participants who are present today, especially those who travelled from outside Beijing to join us here.

We are gathering to review the CBEZ project, in my understanding, this project is not just about facilitating the formation of a specific cooperation zone between two countries, but rather a pilot of an overarching model of cooperation. Our efforts were not constrained by pure economic drives, but stem from our joint concerns for inclusive and sustainable development. Only a shared vision among all those involved, including the Chinese government and the Vietnamese government at all levels, the private sector and the international community, among others, can lead to what is flourishing today, as we can see.

During the implementation period, we have encountered adverse situation, and we have also witnessed breakthroughs. Now we can see clear evidences of intensified economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN countries, including that between China and Viet Nam, in particular border trade between these countries. Trade figures indicated that China has been Viet Nam’s largest trade partner for nine years in a row; and correspondingly, Viet Nam ranks as China’s fifth largest trade partner in ASEAN countries. More specifically, in 2012, bilateral trade volume reached 41.1 billion USD, and may have reached 50 billion in 2013; more recently, both countries pledged to achieve the target of 60 billion ahead of 2015.

On top of these figures, we are delighted to observe a growing level of political recognition and support from both countries. In October 2013, the Memorandum of Understanding on Constructing a Cross-border Economic Cooperation Zone was signed between China and Viet Nam, and it marked a significant breakthrough in cross-border economic cooperation between these two countries. Equally importantly, both sides have already launched concrete plans to translate the MOU into actions. While recognizing the need to start constructing these zones on both sides along the borders, we hold the view that, development aspects such as inter-linkages between these zones (namely their expected impact on economic growth on both sides) and poverty reduction, equitable and inclusive development, should also be built into the master plans for both countries. In relation to this point, we need to figure out how benefits of these zones are equally trickled down between countries involved, and among all stakeholders engaged. In particular, border residents are in general marginalized from economic centers in respective countries, and we have to ensure that cross-border economic and trade cooperation does not just go through the border, but actually benefit those residing along the borders.

We are all aware that China and ASEAN countries are about to embark on another golden or even diamond decade of cooperation. Cross-border economic cooperation is for sure one component of this joint initiative, to achieve common development, regional development and stability, and the MDGs, at large. UNDP attaches importance to development and stability in Southeast Asia and adjourning countries like China, and we remain concerned about the cooperation dynamics in this region. As reiterated on many occasions, UNDP stands ready to support and propel initiatives, in common areas of need.

In the past months, our external evaluators, composed of a consortium of Chinese and foreign experts, have conducted a thorough review of the CBEZ project, and come up with a broad spectrum of observations and recommendations. Apart from obvious achievements, the evaluation report has also rightly pinpointed a few areas where there could have been far better results. We should not be easily satisfied by learning that the project is a big success, or taking credit for influencing certain policies. But rather, we need to carefully review the project in both retrospective and prospective manners. I sincerely hope our meeting can generate concrete and applicable policy recommendations and propose new development paradigms, for the region and beyond. Therefore, we are justified to say that the completion of the CBEZ project does not entail the termination of our cooperation, but rather a mark of past achievements and continued future endeavors, now that you have everything on your side, political support at the highest level from national governments, prospering economic environments in the region, and a consensus on the development benefits of the zones.

I look forward to taking heed of your opinions and comments. I wish you all a fruitful meeting.

Thank you.