Speech at the 12th ASEM Summit
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Brussels, 19 October 2018
President Donald Tusk,
President Jean-Claude Juncker,
Two years ago, we met in Ulaanbaatar to draw up a blueprint for Asia-Europe development. Today, we gather again in Brussels even more confident about the future of our cooperation. Let me thank, on behalf of the Chinese government, the EU and the Belgian government for their thoughtful arrangements for this meeting.
We live in a complex, fast-changing world with many uncertainties. While we have more capabilities and means to make progress than ever before, we also have more worries and doubts about the future. As we face new opportunities for promoting peace and development, we cannot underestimate the risks and challenges.
The backlash against economic globalization, resurgence of unilateralism and protectionism, and frequent flare-ups of geopolitical hotspots and terrorist incidents have seriously affected the international order and multilateral trading regime. The future of humankind hinges on the choice between openness and isolation, cooperation and confrontation.
In response to the shifting international landscape, President Xi Jinping put forward the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, which has been well received by the international community. In pursuing this community, countries need to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, respect the right to choose one’s own path of development, seek political solutions to disputes through negotiation and consultation, and jointly safeguard overall peace and stability.
Meanwhile, it is important for all to anchor growth with structural reforms, nurture the new drivers of growth with more innovation, rebalance economic globalization toward greater inclusiveness and shared benefits, and jointly protect the sound momentum of world economic recovery. All these call for closer global cooperation and a stronger global partnership.
Asia and Europe are two major forces for stability and leading economies in today’s world. ASEM, which brings together 53 members, embodies the prevailing trend of multi-polarization, economic globalization and regional integration. Accounting for nearly 60 percent of the world’s population and half of the global economy, we are an important presence in the international economic and political landscape.
Cooperation between Asia and Europe has a solid foundation, enormous potential and bright prospects. The theme of our meeting, “Global Partnership for Global Challenges,” is highly relevant as it points to the pressing tasks we all face and captures the essence of the relations between Asia and Europe.
As global partners facing new challenges in a new situation, we countries in Asia and Europe should strive to fulfill our important responsibilities for global peace and prosperity, and work together for a community with a shared future for mankind. We need to embrace openness and inclusiveness, and coordinate our actions to promote open and interconnected progress through win-win cooperation to instill strength and confidence into world development. To this end, I suggest that we take the following actions:
First, we need to lead the way in upholding multilateralism. Living in this new era when our interests and futures are so closely entwined, we have but one choice: cooperate with each other and follow multilateralism. Only in this way can we more effectively seize global opportunities and tackle global challenges. Commitment to multilateralism has accompanied ASEM’s inception and growth every step of the way. Our shared multilateral approach has been instrumental in tackling the Asian and global financial crises. This in itself represented a successful practice of multilateral cooperation.
ASEM’s adherence to multilateralism emanates from the diversity of our Asian and European membership. Our differences in ethnicity, culture, religion and level of development have not become obstacles to cooperation but provided a source and foundation for mutual learning and mutual complementarity. ASEM’s multilateral approach is also reflected in our shared commitment to mutual respect and equality. We have worked to expand common ground on major issues while setting aside differences and promote common development and mutual benefit. In a word, multilateralism at ASEM has been a strong underpinning for a steady and sustainable Asia-Europe relationship and for fostering a new type of international relations.
As we both face the serious impact of unilateralism, there is a need to enhance Asia-Europe consultation and cooperation. We must be steadfast in upholding the rules-based international order, the authority of the United Nations, and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Disputes between countries need to be addressed through consultations under bilateral or multilateral frameworks in line with international law. And common challenges of the international community should be met with multilateral solutions and by honoring existing international agreements. As advocates and beneficiaries of multilateralism, we Asian and European countries also need to take the lead in upholding multilateralism.
Second, we need to work for an open world economy. The momentum of world economic recovery has not come easily. An important experience we have drawn was that we strengthened policy coordination and embraced openness and cooperation in addressing the global financial crisis, which enabled us to avoid a repeat of the 20th-century Great Depression. Nevertheless, for recovery to evolve into sustainable growth, it would still require us to uphold the spirit of partnership, remain oriented to openness and development, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and make global division of labor more cooperative, balanced and beneficial to all. Adopting protectionist measures or provoking trade frictions cannot help any country to overcome its development bottlenecks. They will only exacerbate volatility in global markets and affect the well-being of all people and the prospect of world peace and development.
Thanks to our diverse resource endowments and comparative strengths, Asian and European countries enjoy strong economic complementarity. This has made us entirely able to attain win-win and all-win results by intensifying practical cooperation in various areas. We need to stand firm against all forms of protectionism and uphold the rules-based multilateral trading regime to solidify the foundation of economic globalization and free trade. While necessary adjustments and reform can be made to existing WTO rules, one should not start everything anew. Fundamental principles such as free trade must be upheld, the interests and concerns of all parties need to be fully accommodated, and special attention should be given to the rights and interests of developing countries.
As we work to promote global growth and prosperity, we should also strive to narrow the North-South gap. China supports necessary reforms of the WTO, and has set up a joint working group with the EU to keep communication on WTO reform. China suggests that we continue the process under the ASEM Economic Ministers’ Meeting, step up cooperation in customs and other areas, and formulate concrete measures to facilitate trade in Asia and Europe. These actions will underline our support to economic globalization and free trade.
An open world economy and steady global growth cannot be achieved without innovation. As the new round of technological revolution and industrial transformation is gaining momentum, we have seen constant breakthroughs in technology frontiers such as big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. Sophisticated industrial chain cooperation that defies national borders has become the prevailing trend. China would like to work with all interested partners in Asia and Europe to promote cooperation in scientific and technological innovation and the new economy, including in digital economy, smart cities, intelligent connected vehicles and other areas. Next year, China will hold a high-level dialogue on innovation-driven development. We look forward to your active participation and joint contribution to an open and innovative world.
Third, we need to promote interconnected development of Asia and Europe through enhanced connectivity. Sharing common mountains and rivers, Asian and European countries are natural partners in connectivity cooperation. This is also what our people expect from us. We need to improve “hardware connectivity” in terms of highways, railways, aviation, fiber optics and other infrastructure to generate development momentum for surrounding areas. These transportation arteries will be conducive to bringing together in an integrated way the resource endowments, demographic dividends and industrial advantages of the Eurasian continent to forge trans-continental networks of transportation, industries and logistics and flesh out the supply chains, industrial chains and value chains in the region. All this will help unlock the immense development potential of both Asia and Europe.
At the same time, we need to strengthen “soft connectivity” in areas such as institutions, policies, rules and standards in order to invigorate factors of production from capital, technology, to services and data. When Europe’s new technologies are combined with Asia’s big market at a higher level, it will lend fresh impetus to development in Asia and Europe and present new opportunities to the sustained growth of the world economy. In this context, the ASEM Pathfinder Group on Connectivity can serve as an effective platform for deepening cooperation in this important area; it will need our collective support to fully play its coordinating role and deliver relevant plans at an early date.
The Belt and Road Initiative was put forward by China, but it belongs to the world, with the Eurasian continent being a pivotal region. Following the principle of consultation, cooperation and benefit for all, China is ready to work with all parties to enhance synergy of our development strategies, build open and transparent cooperation platforms, and carry out collaborative projects with high standards and quality in a bid to achieve common development and prosperity. Next year, China will hold the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation; fellow ASEM members are welcome to join the event.
Fourth, we need to step up people-to-people and cultural ties to add new vitality to Asia-Europe cooperation. Our two continents, with fascinating episodes of exchanges between the East and West in history, are making new progress in inter-civilizational dialogue and cooperation. People-to-people and cultural ties, as an important pillar of ASEM, deserve greater resource input from all of us to build up momentum and support for political and economic cooperation. There should be more exchanges between our parliaments, social organizations, think tanks, universities and media outlets to enhance understanding and friendship between our peoples. This is also conducive to cementing political mutual trust.
Cooperation in public health, education, population aging, tourism, people with disabilities, women and youth are important to the well-being of our peoples and is part and parcel of efforts for inclusive development. Countries in Asia and Europe need to step up experience-sharing and deepen exchange and cooperation to make societies more equitable and just, and deliver more benefits of development to our peoples. We will continue cooperation involving people with disabilities as part of the ASEM cooperation framework and foster a stronger awareness of equality and inclusion. In this context, China proposes that discussions be held under ASEM on the setting-up of cooperation mechanisms in these areas to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations.