Trade between ASEAN and China has grown 85-fold since open-dialogue ties were established in 1991, according to Chinese state media reports.

The East Asian country has maintained its spot at the top of the list as the bloc’s biggest trading partner for 12 consecutive years, Chinese Assistant Minister of Commerce Ren Hongbin told a press conference on July 29, as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency.

ASEAN ranked as China’s biggest trading partner last year, Ren said, adding that bilateral trade grew 38.2 per cent year-on-year in the first half of this year.

Ren did not provide concrete figures, but for reference, Chinese Customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told a press conference in January that bilateral trade between ASEAN and China was valued at 4.74 trillion yuan ($730 billion), up by seven per cent year-on-year, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper. This is a far cry from the $7.96 billion logged back in 1991.

Cambodia and China have vowed to increasing bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2023. Bilateral trade surged 16 per cent year-on-year to $5.8 billion in 2017, and topped $8 billion in 2020, according to Cambodian Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Sok Sopheak.

According to the ministry, the two-way trade exchange amounted to $8.11807 billion in 2020, falling by 5.2 per cent from 2019. Of that, the Kingdom’s exports were to the tune of $1.08626 billion, up by 8.11 per cent, as imports reached $7.03181 billion, down by 6.97 per cent.

And trade between the two countries was valued at $3.9 billion in the first five months of this year, up by 25 per cent year-on-year, according to the Global Times.

The two countries signed the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) in October, which is expected to enter into force in 2022.

On the investment side, ASEAN has emerged as one of China’s key outbound investment destinations and sources of foreign direct investment (FDI), with cooperation thriving in areas such as industry, infrastructure, novel technologies, agriculture, and the digital and green economies, Xinhua noted.

Mutual investment between ASEAN and China passed $310 billion as of June 30, and the business revenue of Chinese enterprises from project contracts in ASEAN nations came near $350 billion, it said.

China was ranked first in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) equity inflows to Cambodia in the first half of this year, at about $2 billion, Chinese ambassador Wang Wentian said in an interview with Bayon Television (BTV).

Wang noted that major projects invested by Chinese companies in the Kingdom include the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, a coal-fired power station in Preah Sihanouk province and the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport.

According to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), China accounted for 69 per cent of total FDI stock last year. The CDC said it approved 87 new investment projects and expansions of existing ones in 2020, worth more than $2.96962 billion.

Going forward, Ren said China would actively work to shore up economic and trade exchanges with ASEAN by reinforcing cooperative efforts in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic and jointly advancing the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, penned in November, according to Xinhua.