Phnom Penh, July 21 (Xinhua) - Growing economic and trade relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are crucial to securing long-term peace and shared prosperity in the region, said Cambodian officials, scholars and exporters.

ASEAN became China's second-largest trading partner in the first half of 2019, overtaking the United States for the first time since 1997. China's customs data showed that China's trade with ASEAN rose 10.5 percent to nearly 2 trillion yuan (291 billion U.S. dollars) in the first half of this year, as China's trade with the U.S. dropped 9 percent to 1.8 trillion yuan (262 billion U.S. dollars).

Ministry of Commerce Under Secretary of State and Spokesman Seang Thay said China has been one of ASEAN's most important trade and investment partners and vice versa thanks to geographic proximity and strategic partnership between the two sides.

"ASEAN and China have so far cooperated very well in economic and trade sectors," he told Xinhua. "With joint efforts and high commitment made by the leaders of China and ASEAN, I believe that the two-way trade volume between the two sides will continue to increase in coming years."

Multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements have significantly boosted China-ASEAN trade and investment relations, he said.

ASEAN, established in 1967, groups Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mynamar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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