To build a blue economy partnership and realize the goal of sustainable marine development we need to take the governance of the marine ecological environment as the first step and joint construction of marine industrial and supply chains as a major task, says Chi Fulin, president of China Institute for Reform and Development, in a keynote speech on the 2022 Symposium on Building Blue Economy Partnership, which was held on Nov 27.
According to statistics from international organizations, marine resources in the South China Sea have dropped to 5 percent from the 30 percent of the 1950 level. The number of coral reefs in the South China Sea is declining at a rate of 16 percent per decade, and less than 5 percent of the area is effectively protected.
In the face of increasingly severe challenges to marine ecological governance, Chi suggests that consultations on a convention on marine ecological environment governance in the South China Sea be launched as soon as possible in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
An ASEAN-China committee on sustainable marine development should also be established to align their marine strategies; coordinate their maritime policies; and jointly monitor, guide and supervise the governance of the marine ecological environment in the South China Sea, he adds.
For the marine economic development of countries along the Belt and Road initiative, it is important to promote the establishment of free trade zones to boost the development of marine fishery, marine renewable energy, marine biological resources and marine emerging industries. “We should adopt various forms of cooperation, such as framework agreements and investment treaties, to promote the building of flexible and multiple forms of bilateral and multilateral free trade areas, which may help form communities of shared interests and communities of a shared future,” Chi remarks.
Countries can work on technological innovation together to promote data, information and knowledge sharing, and build up regional and global ocean observation and prediction systems. Cooperation on non-traditional security issues such as maritime climate early warning, maritime search and rescue, and response to maritime terrorism and climate extremes, as well as in marine ecological protection and restoration, in building marine ecological waterways, and in jointly addressing transboundary marine pollution should be advanced, according to Chi.
In 2021, ASEAN’s exports of fish and other seafood accounted for 18 percent of its total exports to China. However, processed seafood accounted for only 4.1 percent of its total seafood exports. Therefore, Chi proposes that the RCEP rules of origin need to be better utilized to support enterprises in the region to jointly set up cross-border fishery processing industrial parks in line with their own business needs and resource supply characteristics, and properly deploy industrial chains of fishing, processing, freshness-keeping and transportation, so as to enable the added value of fish and other seafood to exceed 40 percent and to still enjoy the “zero tariff” policy.