SINGAPORE – In the face of diverse challenges countries have to deal with, more platforms for cooperation must be built.

These platforms can channel energies towards constructive relations and stronger cooperation among nations, as well as build a shared future together, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday.

“To build a better shared future for all of humanity, we must strengthen cooperation, because no country can take on these challenges alone,” he said.

DPM Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, gave a virtual speech at the opening ceremony of the 19th China-Asean Expo held in Nanning, Guangxi, in China.

The four-day event, an annual trade fair which promotes economic cooperation between Asean and China, is one such platform, he added. Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng was at the opening of the expo which has more than 1,000 participating enterprises.

DPM Heng noted that Asean leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping had committed to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership last year at the Asean-China Special Summit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of dialogue relations.

This partnership advances Asean-China cooperation in all fields to build an open, inclusive and sustainable region.

“Economic cooperation is a key pillar of this strong partnership, as we work towards greater regional economic integration,” said DPM Heng, adding that Asean and China are now each other’s top trading partner.

They are also part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the largest trading block in the world.

“We are working towards a new round of upgrades for the Asean-China Free Trade Area, the cornerstone of our relations,” DPM Heng said. “These efforts will boost our economies and create new opportunities for our workers and businesses.”

He suggested strengthening partnership in two areas: boosting connectivity and building a digital and green economy for the future.

To enhance connectivity, Asean and China can work together to harness the full potential of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor under the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity.

The corridor provides a direct connection between Western China and South-east Asia through Guangxi’s Qinzhou Port, reduces time and costs in the movement of goods and provision of services, and strengthens supply chain resilience.