China, Vietnam agree to smooth border restrictions after coronavirus disrupts trade
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh say the nations will work together to strengthen trade. Vietnamese exports to China, especially fresh fruit, have taken a hit in recent months due to congestion and border closures
China has pledged to clear the way for Vietnam’s agricultural exports and deepen trade ties between the two countries following implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) earlier this month.
The world’s No 2 economy will strengthen communication and collaboration with its neighbour, including in pandemic control, while managing conflicts in a fair manner, Premier Li Keqiang said in a call with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Thursday.
“China will provide more convenience in clearing the customs process for quality agricultural products from Vietnam,” Li said, according to details published by the state-backed Xinhua News Agency.
In response, Pham vowed that Vietnam would speed up the trade clearance process on its borders and handle disagreements with care.
Vietnamese exports to China, especially fresh fruit, have taken a hit in recent months due to congestion and border closures, after traces of coronavirus were found on its dragon fruit exports in several Chinese provinces, leading to quarantines and a suspension of imports.
Before it was reopened this week, the checkpoint at Dongxing, bordering Vietnam’s Mong Cai, had been closed for three weeks due to Covid-19 controls, which left thousands of trucks stranded and sent fruit prices plummeting in the Southeast Asian nation.
Border clearance at the Friendship Pass in China’s Pingxiang and the Longbang and Pingmeng checkpoints in Baise, also resumed earlier this month after closures, according to the Vietnam News Agency.
For years, China has been the largest market for Vietnam’s fruit and vegetables, snapping up nearly 65 per cent of its fruit exports in the first four months of last year, according to data from Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
China is the No 1 destination for Vietnamese dragon fruit, accounting for 80 per cent of total exports, said Dang Phuc Nguyen, general secretary of the Vietnam Vegetable and Fruit Association during an interview with Bloomberg last September. Dragon fruit makes up one third of Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable exports, which were worth US$3.27 billion last year, he said.
But shipments of the spiky pink fruit have been disrupted by the pandemic recently.
Vietnamese dragon fruit exports to China were suspended for a week in September last year, after coronavirus was reportedly found on packaging and cardboard boxes shipped from Quang Ninh province.
Last January, cherry sales in China also suffered after reports that some imported cherries had tested positive for traces of the virus.
Though the two nations have had a sometimes uneasy history, Vietnam is China’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia and China was Vietnam’s biggest trade partner last year.
Total bilateral trade between the two nations was 1.49 trillion yuan (US$234 billion) in 2021, accounting for more than 26 per cent of China’s trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Trade between China and Vietnam is poised to grow under RCEP, which took effect for most signatories on January 1.
Billed as the world’s largest free-trade deal, RCEP involves 15 member countries, covers nearly a third of the global population and about 30 per cent of global gross domestic product.
Tariff cuts and streamlined intraregional trade under the deal will strengthen ties between member nations and China will push for regional economic integration, Li said.
By Luna Sun – The South China Morning Post – January 14, 2022