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ASEAN Ties to Boost Pan-Beibu Region

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The Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone, located in Pan-Beibu Gulf Region, is expected to further accelerate its development pace and enjoy more advantages with the expected completion of the China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Free Trade Area by 2010.

"The Pan-Beibu Gulf Region will become a thriving region thanks to China-ASEAN cooperation," Chen Wu, vice-chairman of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, told the Fourth Pan-Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation Forum in Nanning, capital of Guangxi.

The Pan-Beibu Gulf Economic Region was launched in 2006 by Guangdong, Yunnan and Guangxi, along with six Southeast Asian countries - Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei.

As a new sub-region cooperation scheme under the framework of China-ASEAN (10+1), Pan-Beibu Gulf economic cooperation acts as a hub connecting China and the ASEAN countries and also attracts increasing global attention.

With profound advantages in terms of natural resources and geography, Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone has become a bright spot among Pan-Beibu Gulf members.

With a population of 12.55 million and a land area of 42,500 sq km, the Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone is the biggest multi-regional cooperation area in China, covering the administrative areas of four major cities - Nanning, Beihai, Qinzhou and Fangchenggang.

Chen said the autonomous region government would strive to intensify infrastructure construction around the Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone to create a better investment environment and also work out preferential policies.

In the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, major breakthroughs have been made with regard to the construction of the Guilin-Beihai and Nanning-Guangzhou expressways, and the renovation of major ports at Fangcheng, Beihai and Qinzhou is now well under way.

By the end of this year, ports across Guangxi will have a handling capacity of more than 100 million tons of cargo and approximately 1.4 million 20-foot container units.

"Under the current policies, labor costs in the economic zone are 20 percent lower than in eastern China and the cost of water and electricity is also 20 percent less, and land costs for investors are also relatively lower," Chen said, adding that the average cost of investment in the economic zone is about 30 percent less than in eastern China.

Ma Biao, chairman of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said that despite the global financial crisis, Guangxi is expected to complete 600 billion yuan (US$88 billion) of fixed asset investment this year, up 59-percent year-on-year.

"About 3,500 km on railway lines will either be constructed or renovated this year," Ma said. "Based on the Beibu Gulf Economic Zone, Guangxi will make great efforts to develop industries including petrochemicals, papermaking, food processing, metallurgy and high-tech, including 14 large-scale projects worth over 100 billion yuan each.

Long Yongtu, secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia, said the accomplishment of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area will create many opportunities for the Pan-Beibu Gulf region.

In April, the State Council approved Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Dongguan of Guangdong province as pilot cities for renminbi settlement of cross-border business.

Chen said Guangxi was committed to building up Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone to make it a key economic engine on a par with China's coastal regions within 10 to 15 years and take the lead in economic development in western China.

(China Daily October 7, 2009)