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Trade with ASEAN expected to boom
( 2003-10-08 09:21) (China Daily)

Premier Wen Jiabao predicted yesterday during his Indonesian visit that trade volume between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to surpass US$100 billion in 2005.

Bilateral trade volume has grown more than six times over the past 10 years, amounting to US$54.77 billion in 2002. For the first half of this year, bilateral trade volume grew by 55.5 per cent to year-on-year US$34.24 billion, said Wen.

He made the prediction in his speech delivered at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit. The audience included over 200 representatives of ASEAN business groups, including delegations from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

Turning to the China-ASEAN Free-Trade Area, Wen said he believed that in 2010, a free-trade area of nearly 2 billion people with a total GDP of almost US$3 trillion will take shape in Asia.

"A more developed and stronger China will bring about development opportunities and tangible benefits to other Asian countries," said Wen.

He said that to build "an amicable, tranquil and prosperous neighbourhood" in the region is an important component of China's own development strategy.

Meanwhile, China's development will bring tremendous immediate and long-term benefits to Asian countries, said Wen, adding that Asia, especially East Asia, will be the major beneficiary of the opening and expansion of the Chinese market.

From 1995 to 2002, the average annual increase rate of China's imports from East Asian countries is more than two times higher than that of world trade figures, according to Wen.

The Chinese Government will encourage more of its companies to make investments and establish their businesses in Asian countries, said Wen, adding that most of the overseas foreign direct investment (FDI) programmes of Chinese enterprises are in Asia.

"FDI from China to Asian countries is increasing at an annual rate of more than 20 per cent, and in some countries even more than 40 per cent," he said.

When touching the exchange rate of the Chinese currency, Wen rejected accusations made by some countries to blame China's exchange-rate mechanism as the cause of deflationary pressure on other countries.

"As a matter of fact, the market competitiveness of Chinese products lies in our rich labour resources," said Wen, explaining that more than half of China's exports are produced by solely foreign-owned enterprises and joint ventures.

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