Amid challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has historically emerged as China’s top trading partner, a Chinese Official said in Beijing on Sunday.

Li Chenggang, Assistant Minister of Commerce, said at a News Conference that economies around the world are grappling with growing downward pressure and shrinking international trade due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Against this backdrop, China and ASEAN have overcome the impact of the epidemic and bucked global trends with good trade and economic cooperation.

Data showed that in the first eight months of this year, China-ASEAN trade volume reached 416.5 billion U.S. dollars, up 3.8 percent year on year, accounting for 14.6 percent of China’s total foreign trade.

In the first half of this year, China’s investment in ASEAN countries amounted to 6.23 billion U.S. dollars, growing 53.1 percent on a yearly basis and taking up 76.7 percent of China’s investment in economies related to the Belt & Road Initiative. ASEAN’s paid-in investment in China surged by 5.9 percent year on year.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. Thanks to trade and investment liberalization and facilitation in the region, economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN has entered a golden period. They are now each other’s largest trading partners.

The bilateral trade between the two sides increased from 292.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2010 to 641.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. By the end of 2019, the two-way investment reached 223 billion U.S. dollars.

“China has established 25 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in ASEAN countries. ASEAN emerged as China’s second largest trading partner last year and became China’s largest trading partner this year against the backdrop of the pandemic. The China-ASEAN Free Trade Area has become one of the most dynamic free trade zones in the world,” Li said.

Li noted China and ASEAN countries had delivered remarkable results in trade and economic cooperation, in which the China-ASEAN Expo has played a vital role. Since it was first held 16 years ago, the expo has become a significant platform for bilateral trade and economic cooperation, ensured unimpeded access to trade and investment, boosted international cooperation in production capacity and encouraged Chinese companies to go to Southeast Asia.

A major platform to advance trade and investment cooperation between China and the 10-member regional organization, the 17th China-ASEAN Expo will be held from Nov 27 to 30 in Nanning, capital of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.