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H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith, Prime Minister of Lao People’s Democratic Republic addresses the opening ceremony of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit via video

Speech
by H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith
Prime Minister of Lao People’s Democratic Republic
at the Opening Ceremony of the 17th ASEAN-China Expo (CAEXPO)
- 27 November 2020 –
 
- Your Excellency Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, 
- ASEAN Leaders, 
- Your Excellency Dr. Arif Alvi, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 
- Distinguished guests, 
- Ladies and Gentlemen, 
 
It is my great honour and privilege to deliver this speech at the Opening Ceremony of the 17th ASEAN-China Expo (CAEXPO) on behalf of the Government of the Lao PDR and in the capacity as the country of honour for the CAEXPO with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Government and people of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), particularly the local authority and people of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region for the excellent preparation made for this 17th ASEAN-China Expo (CAEXPO) and the ASEAN-China Business and Investment Summit. 
 
- Excellencies, 
- Ladies and Gentlemen, 
 
The annual ASEAN-China Expo (CAEXPO) and the ASEAN-China Business and Investment Summit are one of the important mechanisms of the ASEAN-China economic cooperation, which provide an opportunity for businesses from ASEAN and China to meet and share experiences on how best to conduct businesses and showcase their products with an aim of promoting and facilitating trade and investment between ASEAN and China, including promoting cultural exchange, tourism, and enhancing people-to-people exchanges. 
 
Over the last 17 years, the ASEAN-China Expo (CAEXPO) has not only demonstrated the growing trade and investment cooperation between ASEAN and China but also the deep bond between the peoples of ASEAN and China. I am of the view that the chosen theme: “Building the Belt and Rod, Strengthening Digital Economy Cooperation” for this 17th EXPO is timely and relevant in this contemporary world. 
 
 
- Distinguished guests, 
 
Year 2020 is of great significance to the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations as it marks the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area and the ASEAN-China Year of Digital Economic Cooperation. Importantly, the 23rd ASEAN-China Summit held on 12 November 2020 adopted numerous outcome documents, namely, the Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2021-2025) and the ASEAN-China Economic Ministers’ Joint Statement on Combatting the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and Enhancing the ACFTA. These documents provide essential guidelines for the enhancement of trade and investment between ASEAN and China in many years to come.
 
Notwithstanding these developments, the global economic volatility persists and the economic growth continues to be undermined. These can be attributed to many factors, one of which is the COVID-19 outbreak, which continues to spread exponentially with many confirmed cases and deaths across the globe. The COVID-19 outbreak has not only posed an existential threat to humanity but also posed an immediate- and long-term threat to the socio-economic development, including to the stability and security of the region and the world as a whole. It is therefore incumbent upon us to resort to solidarity and unity in our fight against COVID-19 and jointly implement the commitment as outlined in the outcome documents of the recent ASEAN-China Summit as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement recently signed on 15 November 2020 with a view to bringing about tangible benefits to the people of ASEAN and China. We should also continue to encourage an exchange and transfer of modern technological know-hows in order to facilitate a transition to digital economy. 
 
I could say without a doubt that in this new era, the digital economy has a potential role in accelerating the socio-economic development of the region and the world. The adoption of the Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2021-2025) by the Leaders in 2020 also underscores the importance of intensifying ASEAN-China cooperation in digital economy of the region. Nonetheless, there remains digital divide and development gap within ASEAN – which must be taken into account when implementing the Plan of Action. 
For the Lao PDR, we are focusing on making necessary preparation to develop ourselves in order to adapt to the new digital economy through drafting the five-year national digital economy blueprint (2021-2025). The utilization of modern technologies in manufacturing will greatly decrease traditional geographical distance – which will no longer be a barrier to trade and investment. 
 
- Distinguished guests, 
 
Since the announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI has attracted broad interest on the international stage. The Lao PDR in particular has supported the BRI since the beginning and actively participated in the areas of cooperation under the BRI and His Excellency Bounnhang Vorachit, President of the Lao PDR, attended the first and second Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing. The Lao PDR was of one of the fifty seven (57) countries to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) from which we received a financial support to improve a critical section of the National Road 13, thereby contributing to the national efforts of the Lao PDR towards regional and international integration and connectivity. The Laos-China Railway project is also one of the major projects in the Lao PDR – an emblematic of the BRI – which is an important milestone in the traditional amity and friendship between the Lao PDR and China in this contemporary era. 
 
On behalf of the Government and people of the Lao PDR, I wish to reaffirm our commitment to extend our cooperation and support to the BRI with a view to building peace and bringing civilisation and sustainable development to countries along the Silk Road by promoting synergies between the BRI and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025, thereby facilitating trade and investment between the two regions. 
 
Lastly, I would like to once again express my sincere appreciation to the Government of the People’s Republic of China, particularly the local authority and people of Nanning for the excellent preparation made for this important EXPO as well as various supports extended to the Lao PDR. I am confident that through an effective mechanism, ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations will continue to yield fruitful results and strengthen ASEAN-China as a region of civilization. And I wish the 17th ASEAN-China EXPO (CAEXPO) every success. 
 
Thank
CAEXPO Secretariat 2020-11-27 15:20:01