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Cross-border workers boost China-ASEAN ties

Date: 19/08/2013
Source: Global Times
Cross-border workers boost China-ASEAN ties

Every morning, more than 7,000 Vietnamese walk across the border and start work in a Chinese town.

Nguyen Thi Dung, an interpreter, is one of them. She lives in the Vietnamese city of Mong Cai but works in Dongxing City in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The 27-year-old woman has a number of clients in Dongxing. With the help of people like her, Vietnam sells seafood to China, while China exports clothes and domestic appliances to Southeast Asia.

Dung earns at least 200 yuan (about 33 US dollars) every day, nearly five times the amount of the average Vietnamese do.

"It's been my dream for a long time to speak Chinese well and work in China," she said.

The free trade area built by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) provides opportunities for more people to make decent salaries like Dung.

The preferential trade policies and zero tariffs for thousands of commodities have resulted in an increasing number of Chinese and ASEAN citizens working across borders.

Vietnamese businesswoman Lu Thi Mot started to seek opportunities in Dongxing a decade ago.

After years of hard work, Mot now runs a Vietnamese specialty store at a trade center in Dongxing.

Every morning, Mot walks to her store in China, and in the afternoon, she returns to home in Vietnam. Her business is booming.

Chinese living in the border area can buy up to 8,000 yuan of Vietnamese goods every day without paying tariffs. This has resulted in mushrooming border transactions.

"There are about 90 Vietnamese stores at the trade center, and transactions exceed 10 million yuan each day," said Yao Qiwei, deputy director of Dongxing's border trade management bureau.

To facilitate the transactions, the People's Bank of China in July approved a pilot project of individual cross-border renminbi, or China's currency, settlement in Dongxing. The cross-border workers only need to provide receipts to conduct transnational settlements for amounts less than 800,000 yuan.

The regulation will allow the China-Vietnam border trade to grow even more quickly, Yao said.

The trade center is only one example.

In Vientiane, capital of Laos, cars with Chinese license plates are everywhere. Many Chinese go there to work.

The Chinese can easily drive to Laos through ports in Yunnan Province, with simple procedures. Many Chinese work in factories there on weekdays and return to China on weekends.

In Yunnan's Ruili, China's border city with Myanmar, the number of cross-border workers stands at around 30,000, accounting for one third of the city's population.

Ruili is the biggest destination for Myanmar's labor exports. Most of such Myanmar citizens work in jewelry, logistics, tourism and interpretation.

Huang Zhiyong, deputy dean of the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, said the cross-border workers are the epitome of China-ASEAN cultural exchange.

"These workers not only contribute to economic development, but also enhance the understanding between the Chinese and ASEAN people. They allow different cultures to interact," Huang said.

Xu Ningning, deputy secretary general of the China-ASEAN Business Council, said the China and ASEAN strategic partnership continued to bring opportunities, markets and resources to both sides.

Figures from China's Ministry of Commerce showed that total trade between China and the ASEAN reached 210.6 billion US dollars in the first half of 2013, up 12.2 percent year on year.

China has been the biggest trade partner of the ASEAN for four years, while the ASEAN is China's third largest trade partner.

Trade grew to more than 400 billion US dollars in 2012 from 78 billion US dollars in 2003, the ministry said.

Vice commerce minister Gao Yan said trade between China and the ASEAN was expected to exceed 500 billion US dollars in 2015.

"Both sides will enhance cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure construction and manufacturing. Chinese financial institutions will try to promote China-ASEAN cooperation," Gao said.

As cooperation deepens, there will be more people joining the cross-border workforce, Xu said.

"In the coming years, a person could possibly have a meeting in a Singapore office in morning, and arrive at a factory in Shenzhen in the afternoon," Xu said.

Topic: Economy
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