BEIJING: Asean, as a bloc, has replaced the European Union to become China's largest trading partner in the first quarter of this year, according to China’s Global Times citing data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs.
In the first three months of this year, Asean-China total bilateral trade rose 6.1% year-on-year to 991.34 billion yuan (US$140.62 billion) despite the coronavirus pandemic, the official online news portal added.
However, it noted contracted manufacturing activities in some Asean countries were hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in March.
Citing data from IHS Markit, Global Times said the Asean purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell from 50.2 in February to 43.3 in March, with Singapore's PMI slumping to 27.7 and Vietnam's down to 41.9.
The news outlet opined China can help the Asean supply chain recover.
“With a South-east Asian supply chain centering around China coming into being, the regional economic cooperation between China and Asean has arrived at an unprecedented level of economic interdependence.
“To a certain extent, such a relationship means that even though the Chinese and Asean economies have taken a hard hit from the coronavirus, it is unlikely to break existing industrial chains and Asean members will be the first to feel the spillover effects of China's economic revival.”
While China can help in the recovery of the Asean production chain, Global Times acknowledged that the Chinese economy cannot fully recover without the support of Asean's trade and industrial chain.
It said China could coordinate with Asean members to ensure supplies of raw materials and smooth logistics in the region.
China could also help by making appropriate adjustments to expand imports from Asean members.