NANNING -- Business leaders and representatives from China and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday vowed to forge close strategic ties among urban chambers of commerce and enhance economic cooperation and development.
That was the consensus reached by more than 600 members of the business communities of cities in China and nine of the 10 members of ASEAN.
The participants came to Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to attend a forum on economic cooperation and development of chambers of commerce.
Under the consensus, the participants agreed to abide by the principle of reciprocity and provide each other with services and conveniences, such as establishing representative agencies.
They agreed to set up a Sino-ASEAN federation of chambers of commerce, with the secretariat to be located in Nanning, and to create a special organization in charge of preparations for the proposed federation.
The two-day forum, the first of the kind, closed on Saturday.
Nanning is also the permanent venue of the Sino-ASEAN Expo, which is an annual gathering of political and business leaders as well as experts to discuss major issues concerning the development of China and ASEAN.
During those gatherings, business people from China and the Southeast Asian countries come to seek their fortunes. The Fifth Sino-ASEAN Expo will be held during October 20-23 next year.
China aims to establish a free trade zone with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand by 2010. Free trade zones with Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar are expected to be in place by 2015.
China and the 10 ASEAN members are speeding up tariff reductions to facilitate a China-ASEAN free trade zone.
China's average tariff on ASEAN goods has been slashed from 9.9 percent to 5.8 percent and will further drop to 2.4 percent by 2009. By the time the free trade zone is established, 93 percent of products from ASEAN countries will be tariff-free.
China-ASEAN trade volume was 160.8 billion U.S. dollars last year and is expected to reach 190 billion US dollars this year.
In the first eight months of this year, bilateral trade amounted to 127.95 billion US dollars.