Nation to sign trade agreements with Pakistan, India

By Sun Shangwu (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-14 06:55

China will sign agreements with Pakistan and India to push forward economic and trade ties during President Hu Jintao's official visits to the two countries next week.

The Ministry of Commerce announced yesterday in Beijing that China and Pakistan have agreed on market access and "basically wrapped up" negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA).

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The agreement is expected to be signed during President Hu's state visit to Islamabad on November 24.

China and Pakistan have conducted five rounds of negotiations since last April, with the latest round concluding in Beijing on Friday.

Before visiting Pakistan, Hu will leave Beijing for Viet Nam tomorrow for a state visit. In Hanoi he will also attend the leaders' meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) from November 18-19.

Hu will then tour Laos to boost traditional friendship, before heading to India to seek bilateral collaboration.

Bilateral trade between Pakistan and China reached US$4.26 billion last year, up 39 per cent over 2004.

The free trade agreement with Pakistan is expected to cover investment and commodities trade, but details are not known.

China-Pakistan FTA talks started last April in Islamabad after Premier Wen Jiabao and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz signed an "early harvest" FTA, under which China would impose agreed tariff rates on 2,244 categories of Pakistani products.

"Pakistan is expected to enjoy the benefits in agriculture and fishery and the FTA will boost Pakistan's exports to China," said Hu Shisheng, an expert with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

It has also been reported that China will conduct FTA talks with India.

But Hu Shisheng told China Daily that the negotiations could not be finalized during President Hu's trip to New Delhi.

"It is too early for the two countries to clinch such a deal because India still has some worries about certain Chinese industrial sectors, such as manufacturing," the expert said.

However, China and India are expected to sign an agreement on protecting trade and investment, he noted.

This agreement is believed to be encouragement to investors from both sides.

China is India's second largest partner and bilateral trade is expected to exceed US$20 billion this year.

During his trip to India in April last year, Premier Wen and his Indian counterpart set a bilateral trade target of US$50 billion by 2010.

China has been talking with 27 countries and regions about the establishment of nine free trade areas, covering a quarter of China's total trade, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Last year China signed an FTA cargo trade agreement with Chile and started an all-round tariff reduction process with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The mainland, meanwhile, implemented a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with Hong Kong and Macao.

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