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Fair indicates great trade potential between China, ASEAN
( 2003-08-27 14:51) (eastday.com.cn)

More than 4,000 businessmen from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are attending the 11th Kunming Export Commodities Trade Fair which opened Tuesday in this capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province.

China's decision to establish special ASEAN exhibition rooms is echoed by companies from the region, with 256 out of 1,500 exhibition rooms occupied by enterprises from ASEAN countries.

The fair's organizing committee said the establishment of ASEAN event rooms was to meet the requirements for a free trade zone between China and ASEAN in the near future.

All 10 ASEAN countries have enterprises participating in the trade fair, with Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines present at the annual event for the first time.

ASEAN enterprises have brought to the trade fair competitive farm produce, aquatic products and light industrial goods.

Observers said the enthusiasm of the ASEAN countries mirrors the great trade potential between China and ASEAN as a free-trade agreement is now under negotiation by the two sides.

"The annual total trade volume between China and ASEAN might approach that of the North American Free Trade Area after the China-ASEAN free trade zone comes into being," said Zhao Yang, deputy director of the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs of the State Council, China's cabinet.

"Competition between China and ASEAN does exist in some industries," Zhao said, "but it will stimulate the two sides to better develop their comparative advantages, and promote the process of free trade and investment."

Trade between China and ASEAN has kept soaring since the Asian financial crisis of 1997 with an average annual growth rate of 15 percent, making ASEAN the fifth-largest of China's trade partners, while China is ASEAN's sixth-largest trade partner.

China's customs statistics show that the total trade between China and ASEAN reached US$23.55 billion -worth in the first half of 2003, an increase of 18.7 percent year on year.

"I had never expected the market in China to be so big, since this is my first visit to the country," said Dong Mai Son, manager of a Ho Chi Minh City-based import and export company attending the fair.

Initial statistics show that more than 10,000 business people from both at home and abroad are expected to attend the five-day event, according to the organizing committee.

The event has drawn 1,300 enterprises, including over 200 enterprises from 13 other countries and regions, such as the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Sweden, Australia, Japan, ASEAN, India, Bangladesh, and China's Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The Kunming Trade Fair, which was first held in 1993, is jointly hosted by China's southwestern Chongqing Municipality, Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, the Guangxi Zhuang and Tibet autonomous regions, and Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province.

The fair will close this Saturday.

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