BANGKOK, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have huge room to expand economic and trade cooperation and will contribute more to the global economy, experts said.
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an academic of ASEAN affairs at Chulalongkorn University, said China-ASEAN trade still has huge potential to grow.
"The ASEAN market is very large with abundant natural resources, a huge population and GDP approaching 3 trillion U.S. dollars, and is still growing due to young demographics and young markets," Thitinan said.
China's trade with ASEAN reached 1.98 trillion yuan (288 billion U.S. dollars) in the first half of this year, with ASEAN overtaking the United States to become China's second-largest trading partner.
The China-ASEAN cooperation can also be expanded to more areas including supply chain, global value chain, tourism and services, Thitinan said.
"As neighbors, ASEAN and China have kept close relations and ASEAN market has become more and more important to China and vice versa," said Wichai Kinchong Choi, senior vice president of Thailand's Kasikorn Bank.
China as the second largest economy in the world and ASEAN, an emerging market of great potential, could cooperate closely to become a main driving force of the sustainable growth of world economy, the senior vice president said.
Echoing Wichai's remarks, Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior fellow of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, said stronger China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation will become a bright spot amid lackluster global trade and rising protectionism, bringing new impetus into the world economy.
Under increasingly closer ties, China and ASEAN have also joined hands to defend free trade and multilateralism.
At the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting held here Wednesday, ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to work for the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations within this year.
The RCEP, a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 ASEAN member states and six of their FTA partners - China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India, is expected to create one of the world's largest trading blocs.
"Although it (the RCEP) is not a full-fledged trade liberalization, it is still significant as it covers a wide range of countries in the Asia Pacific and can be a boost to the regional economy," Thitinan said.
"RCEP is very important for regional economic integration as ASEAN and China would jointly push for the conclusion of the negotiation," Wichai said.