Xi vows strong cooperation with Laos

Updated: 2013-09-27 07:03

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

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China and Laos promised closer coordination on ASEAN and international affairs, as the president of the Southeast Asian country began a five-day visit to China on Thursday.

President Xi Jinping and Laotian President Choummaly Saygnasone made the remarks as they met at the Great Hall of the People.

The two nations should "strengthen their mutual understanding and support on international and regional affairs, especially communication, coordination and cooperation on major principal issues regarding regional peace and stability," Xi said during the meeting, according to a news release from the Foreign Ministry.

Choummaly, also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, said his country seeks "closer coordination on ASEAN-related and international affairs" with China and will protect common interests and work to develop the countries together.

Laos, which borders China, is a member of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Li Hao, head of the Institute of Lao Studies at the Institute of China-ASEAN Research in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said Laos serves a unique role in bringing China closer to its ASEAN neighbors and can act as a mediator amid some regional disputes.

"In its foreign policies, Laos sees China as a key partner. Economically, its fast development is closely linked with that of China," Li said.

Li said economic ties will be increased once a proposed railway linking the two neighbors is finished.

The leaders' high expectations will also inject energy into regional cooperation, including those between China and Laos, he said.

"Especially, Premier Li Keqiang said this month that in the past 10 years, China and ASEAN forged a 'golden decade', while in the coming 10 years they can strive for a 'diamond decade'."

The premier told Choummaly when they met on Thursday that China seeks enhanced relations with ASEAN and wants to forge an updated version of the China-ASEAN free trade area.

China expects Laos to play an active role in consolidating China's ties with the regional bloc, he said.

Chinese Ambassador to Laos Guan Huabing said before the visit that the two nations' ties are at a historic high.

Earlier this month, Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong attended the 10th ASEAN-China Expo in Nanning, capital of Guangxi, where he met the premier.

Frequent high-level exchanges have boosted bilateral relations, the ambassador said.

"The establishment of a China-ASEAN free trade zone (in 2010) effectively promoted the economic growth of both China and Laos and created mutual benefits," he added.

China is Laos' second-largest trading partner and source of imports, as well as its third-largest export market.

According to the embassy, bilateral trade volume reached $1 billion in 2010. The figure rose to $1.728 billion in 2012.

In the first five months of 2013, bilateral trade stood at $794 million, and China's nonfinancial direct investment in Laos reached $339 million. China has 745 projects in Laos with investment of $5 billion, according to Laotian figures.

After their meeting on Thursday, the two presidents officiated the signing of a group of cooperation documents in areas that included financing.

Mo Jingxi and Xinhua contributed to this story.


(China Daily USA 09/27/2013 page17)