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China signs trade deal with Eurasian Economic Union

By Jing Shuiyu and Zhong Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-18 11:38

China and member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union on Thursday signed an agreement in Astana, Kazakhstan, to cut trade barriers and facilitate economic activities, said the Ministry of Commerce.

The ministry said this is the first institutional arrangement representing a new stage of enhanced cooperation between the two sides.

The economic and trade agreement covers 13 chapters, ranging from customs cooperation and trade facilitation, intellectual property rights, to government procurement, with new topics including e-commerce and market competition, according to the ministry.

The Eurasian Economic Union was founded by the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in May 2014. The treaty of the union came into force in 2015, when Armenia and Kyrgyzstan joined the bloc.

Fu Ziying, vice-minister of commerce and China's international trade representative, signed the deal with officials from the union and all member countries.

The two sides will step up their domestic procedures, aiming for the deal go into effect in early 2019, the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the agreement aims to further reduce non-tariff trade barriers, improve trade facilitation, while creating a favorable environment for industrial development and boosting China's economic and trade relations with Eurasian Economic Union and its member countries.

Zhou Shijian, an economics professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said even though many parts of the world are still having trouble with unilateralism and trade protectionism, China and the five-nation union have reached broad consensus on Eurasian economic integration.

"The agreement will help the six countries better shape the 'docking' of the fast-growing Belt and Road Initiative," he said.

The deal will effectively optimize the trade structure and cultivate new growth points for economic advancement and increased employment between China and the union's members, especially in the areas of energy, road logistics, light industry, regional aviation and railway network development, said Xue Rongjiu, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Society for WTO Studies.

"The signing of the agreement will also be conducive to the setting up of mechanisms to facilitate trade and to draw up policies in areas of common interest, such as jointly establishing industrial parks, agricultural projects, infrastructure facilities and cross-border economic cooperation zones," he said.

The Ministry of Commerce also announced on Thursday at a regular news conference that China's nonfinancial outbound direct investment surged 34.9 percent year-on-year in the first four months of the year.

Domestic investors made $35.58 billion of nonfinancial investment in 2,459 overseas businesses in 144 countries and regions between January and April.

ODI in economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative rose 17.3 percent from a year earlier to $4.67 billion during the first four months.

ODI mainly flowed into sectors including leasing, business services, mining, and manufacturing, the data showed. No new investments were made in the property, sports and entertainment industries.

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