ASEAN praises China's role in promoting ties
ASEAN has lauded China for its efforts in promoting the strong partnership between them.
ASEAN recognizes the strong ties with China as an ideal model that the grouping would like to see other trading partners follow, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said in Vientiane.
He was speaking to reporters after his ministerial talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing in the Laotian capital on Saturday, according to Japan's Kyodo News.
Surakiart Sathirathai is among ASEAN foreign ministers gathered in Vientiane to prepare for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit starting on Monday.
The ministers held separate meetings with their counterparts from China, Japan, India and South Korea to prepare for the summit at which more than 20 agreements are expected to be signed.
Among the most significant will be a series of agreements to be signed between ASEAN and China that would take them one step further towards setting up the world's largest free trade area of nearly two billion people by the end of the decade.
Cooperation between ASEAN and China has significantly widened since the start of the new century to cover all aspects of political, economic and people-to-people relationships.
In 2002, ASEAN and Chinese leaders signed a Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Partnership in Phnom Penh.
The pact committed them to eliminating tariffs in merchandise trade by 2010.
A year later in Bali, they jointly declared a Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity outlining wide-ranging cooperation on politics, social affairs, security and international and regional affairs.
As a downpayment to trade liberalization, ASEAN and China began on January 1 this year initial tariff cuts on farm products in eight categories.
And to further strengthen their comprehensive cooperation in transport to promote the establishment of ASEAN-China free trade area, the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on transport cooperation.
The MoU was signed on Saturday in Vientiane by ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong and China's Minister of Communication Zhang Chunxian.
Under the MoU, both sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation in such areas as transport infrastructure construction, transport facilities, maritime safety and security, air transport and human resource development.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The leaders of these countries will meet with those of Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea at the two-day summit.