NANNING, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pledged to enhance agricultural cooperation to help improve economic development and prevent food crisis.
China and ASEAN countries inked "Nanning Consensus" on stepping up agricultural exchange and cooperation at a summit forum held on Monday in Nanning, capital city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
"Agriculture is a major field for strategic cooperation among China and the ASEAN members, which is an important part of the construction of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA)", said Qin Ruixiang, deputy director of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Guangxi.
The parties identified seven areas as the priorities for exchange and cooperation, including agro-industry and food security, new crop varieties and animal breeds, agricultural sciences and technology, biomass energy, agricultural processing and logistics, animal husbandry and fishery.
They also vowed to optimize the allocation of resources such as labors and funds, expand cooperation on technology and personnel training and intensify agricultural investment in ASEAN.
The summit forum was held ahead of the 6th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning to be held from Oct. 20 to 24.
An agricultural exhibition of 600 booths would be held for the first time at the expo, which aimed at expanding opportunities for agricultural cooperation among China and the ASEAN countries, Qin said.
China and the ASEAN countries launched the early-harvest program in 2004, which set to scrap tariffs on about 600 agricultural imports in both sides by 2006. The program was part of the FTA framework agreement signed by China and the ASEAN countries in 2002.
Xu Ningning, Secretary General of China-ASEAN Board of Commerce (China) said the program had boosted agricultural production in the region and accelerated trade of agricultural products.
Data from the China's Ministry of Agriculture showed China's agricultural exports to ASEAN hit 4.58 billion U.S. dollars in 2008, up 16 percent from a year ago, and agricultural imports from the ASEAN rose 30.2 percent year on year to 9.24 billion U.S. dollars.
H.E. Rasphone Sitaheng, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, told Xinhua that China and the ASEAN members should further push forward regional integration to increase agricultural production. Laos expected more assistance from China on personnel training and animal quarantine, he said.
Zabidi Bin Dun, Director of Negeri Sembilan Agricultural Bureau of Malaysia, told Xinhua, "the expo is a good platform to look for ways and technology (in terms of agricultural cooperation) so that we can benefit from each other, and Malaysia will consider organizing similar seminars or conferences to invite investors to the country."
He said cooperation on technology and investment between Malaysia and China was not as much as that on trade. "The weakness is the networking. We expect more communication with China to enhance our cooperation. Once we can sit down and talk, everything will be solved," he said.