China and Southeast Asian countries agreed
yesterday to cut barriers to trade in telecommunications, transport, tourism and
other services as a key step toward creating the world's most-populous
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian
Nations that the agreement on services "signifies that the development of a
China-ASEAN free-trade zone has taken a crucial step forward."
The participants expect the services pact, signed at a regional summit in
Cebu in the central Philippines, to trigger increased levels of trade and
investment after its implementation in July.
China and ASEAN aim to have the foundation of a full free-trade area laid by
2010, with China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and
Thailand hoping to drop tariffs on most products by then.
China and the remaining ASEAN members - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam -
will target that goal five years later.
Under the deal signed yesterday, service providers in the region will enjoy
improved market access.
The agreement is also expected to bring higher levels of investment in the
region, particularly in construction, engineering, energy, travel, transport,
education, telecommunications, culture and sports.
"Successive rounds of market access negotiations to substantially improve the
level of commitments and broaden the sector coverage of the agreement will be
undertaken over the next year," said a statement issued by the signatories.
Wen hailed the agreement as another achievement in China-ASEAN economic
On November 4, 2002, then-Premier Zhu Rongji and ASEAN nation leaders signed
a framework agreement that began the process of setting up a China-ASEAN
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