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Building on Success

Copyfrom:China Report ASEANPost Time:2018-05-03 15:35:38

Suggestions on how to enhance cooperation

between Chinese and ASEAN chambers of commerce

At the 20th ASEAN-China Summit, held in November 2017 in the Philippines capital Manila, the year 2018 was officially designated as the ASEAN-China Year of Innovation and cooperation in technological innovation and the digital economy was welcomed.

Innovation requires collective wisdom and joint efforts. To this end, both China and ASEAN member states need to mobilize their resources to ensure that their chambers of commerce are actively involved in bilateral economic and trade cooperation. As an industry association is the representative of enterprises, the cooperation between Chinese and ASEAN chambers of commerce is conducive to companies and industries entering the markets of each others country and to avoid vicious competition between enterprises.

However, the cooperation potential between the chambers of commerce of China and ASEAN member states remains undeveloped. First, there is insufficient communication of routine information concerning market trends, the status of key industries and projects with the potential for bilateral or multilateral cooperation. Second, both sides lack long-term mechanisms for jointly hosting activities dedicated to enhancing cooperation between companies. Third, as representatives of the business community, chambers of commerce on both sides have nonetheless failed to produce reports offering advice to government authorities and enterprises concerning how to promote regional economic cooperation.

In response, I propose four ways to strengthen cooperation between Chinese and ASEAN chambers of commerce.

First, chambers of commerce from ASEAN countries should be aware of the significance of the Belt and Road Initiative as a potential driving-force for their own national self-development.

Both Chinese and ASEAN chambers of commerce should make great efforts to achieve accomplishments in the Belt and Road construction. There are many advantages in developing economic and trade links between China and ASEAN. Both sides are connected by land and river-based transport networks, and ASEAN is attached to China along the Maritime Silk Road. These natural linkages between China and ASEAN have provided a sound foundation upon which cooperation has evolved since China and ASEAN began engaging in bilateral dialogue in 1991. China is ASEANs largest trading partner while the bloc is both Chinas third largest trading partner and the leading destination for Chinese companies' overseas investment for four consecutive years. The ASEAN-China Free Trade Area offers an open market for both sides and in turn demands committed cooperation to achieve the goal of collective economic growth.

These advantages have encouraged more Chinese companies to enter the ASEAN market in recent years, while the number of enterprises from ASEAN member states tapping into the Chinese market has also continued to increase. Both Chinese and ASEAN chambers of commerce should possess a sense of urgency concerning participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. Both sides should reinforce their personnel in order to engage in the greater regional cooperation and further improve the internal mechanisms for economic opening-up.

Second, China and ASEAN member states should strive to better understand each other in order to promote further cooperation.

Chinese and ASEAN chambers of commerce should have a clear understanding of a number of key aspects of the relationship between the two sides, including the cooperation consensus reached between governments of China and ASEAN member states, important documents agreed upon by both sides such as cooperation framework agreements, action plans and memorandums of understanding in the fields of infrastructure, agriculture and information, established multilateral economic cooperation mechanisms including the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism, the joint commission of China-Singapore bilateral economic and trade cooperation and the joint commission of China-Malaysia bilateral economic and trade cooperation, ministerial-level cooperation mechanisms in the fields of energy and finance, and economic cooperation mechanisms established between certain ASEAN countries and Chinese provinces. Chambers of commerce from ASEAN member states need to take full advantage of these agreements and mechanisms.   

Meanwhile, chambers of commerce from China should understand both the current situation of  ASEAN as a whole and of each individual member state including economic growth, economic policies, relevant economic laws and regulations, industrial structures, resource distribution, economic relations with non-ASEAN countries, economic and trade complementarity with China, economic cooperation mechanisms within ASEAN, such as ASEAN Community Vision 2025, ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 and ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016-2025, and the national development strategies of each ASEAN member state.

If chambers of commerce from both China and ASEAN member states cannot on their own master the above-mentioned information, they should consult professional organizations. The China-ASEAN Business Council (CABC), one of the dialogue cooperation mechanisms established between China and ASEAN, can provide such assistance.

Third, China and ASEAN member states need to actively carry out cooperative activities with each others chambers of commerce.

Such activities can include strengthening forms of routine information communication, actively organizing the exchange of visits by business and project-researching delegations, jointly hosting investment and business promotion events as well as activities intended to attract investment, organizing exhibitions, workshops and trade fairs, providing business consulting for companies engaged in bilateral cooperation, recommending projects and partners for cooperation, training the marketing personnel of enterprises interested in exploring the ASEAN market, and organizing events for the purpose of exchanging experiences among Chinese companies doing business in ASEAN.  

The chambers of commerce on both sides should also actively pursue greater industrial cooperation, while China should reinforce existing forms of cooperation with ASEAN's industry associations. Chambers of commerce from China can organize Chinese enterprises to collectively establish industrial parks in ASEAN countries, thus contributing to the development of both individual companies and their collective industry. The industry associations of ASEAN member states have a clear grasp of their countries economic, policies, market trend, strengths and reputations of companies concerned and other information needed by Chinese companies entering the ASEAN market.

In addition, Chinese and ASEAN chambers of commerce need to actively address a number of key issues, including conducting research and analysis on the problems currently faced by Chinese enterprises in ASEAN, providing guidance and advice to member companies, formulating industry regulations to cut down on improper business activities, establishing and improving cooperation mechanisms between the chambers of commerce of China and ASEAN member states, formulating and implementing cooperative activities  among these chambers of commerce, and enhancing cooperation in the fields of consulting, finance and law.

Fourth, companies from different countries should take full advantage of the resources provided by their respective chambers of commerce in order to further develop their businesses.

Enterprises from both China and ASEAN countries should actively participate in events held by chambers of commerce in order to tap into new sources of information and expand their businesses by seeking new developments in the growing economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN.

Companies from both China and ASEAN member states can use their respective chambers of commerce to develop each others markets and increase cooperation in investment and boost trade in goods and services. Industry associations and chambers of commerce are excellent sources of information on concerning national policies, industry development planning, key enterprises and market trends. For instance, if a company intends to cooperate with another enterprise, the local industry association or chamber of commerce can provide the company with information such as the corporate strength and reputation of the target enterprise. Companies can also make use of chambers of commerce in target countries to seek reliable business partners and familiarize themselves with local industry policy.

In addition, companies can protect their rights and interests by reporting problems to local chambers of commerce, while chambers of commerce in turn can offer advice to government authorities. By participating in activities held by local chambers of commerce, companies can exchange their experiences with peer companies, actively participate in exhibitions, seminars, workshops and fairs, and form consortiums to explore each others markets.

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