MANILA - China has risen to become a "collaborator" in Southeast Asia, rather than a threat, helping spur the region's economies, former president Gloria Arroyo said Tuesday.
Arroyo, who was president for nearly a decade until June 2010, said the ASEAN or Association of Southeast Asian Nations initially saw China as a rival in the 1980s.
"Everybody thought China would become a competitor. We did not predict that China was going to be class all its own," Arroyo told the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.
"Today, we see China is not a business competitor. It's a collaborator, a donor and a market," said Arroyo, who represents her home province of Pampanga in the House of Representatives.
China is among ASEAN's dialogue partners and is participating in this year's summit that is hosted by the Philippines.
Arroyo said ASEAN should work to achieve full integration by 2025 to become globally competitive.
"We need to have broken down non-tariff barriers to the free flow of goods and labor," she said.