US President George W.
Bush (R) and first lady Laura Bush (2nd L) gather on the South Portico of
the White House with China's President Hu Jintao (2nd R) and his wife Liu
Yongqing at a welcoming ceremony in Washington April 20, 2006.
Chinese President Hu Jintao will
kick off his maiden trip to India later this month amid reports that Beijing is
considering talks with New Delhi on a free trade area (FTA).
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular briefing yesterday that
Hu will make a state visit to India from November 20 to 23 following official
visits to Viet Nam and Laos. He will then visit Pakistan for another four days.
Hu will also attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit in Hanoi,
the capital of Viet Nam, next week.
The FTA issue is widely expected to be discussed during Hu's visit to India;
and Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai yesterday hoped for successful
China is currently holding FTA talks with Singapore, Australia, New Zealand
and Pakistan as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently expressed interest in a similar
"Trade and economic co-operation between China and India serve the interests
of both countries," Cui said, noting that bilateral trade volume is expected to
exceed US$20 billion this year.
He said China is India's second-largest trading partner and the two sides
co-operate closely in energy, agriculture, technology and education.
Earlier reports quoted Fu Ziying, assistant minister of commerce, as saying
that China is considering FTA talks with India; and observers said fruition
would only be a matter of time.
Liu Jian, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said
the resumption of cross-border trade at the Himalayan Nathu La Pass in July is a
good prelude to the FTA talks.
He said the "conditions for the establishment of a free trade area have been
improving. The free trade area will not only conform to the trend of economic
globalization, but also strengthen bilateral ties."
He noted that trade between the two Asian giants, both among the world's
fastest-growing economies, soared in the past decade, from US$1.16 billion to
US$18.7 billion last year, with year-on-year growth of 32 per cent.
During his trip to the world's second-most populous country last April,
Premier Wen Jiabao and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh set a bilateral
trade target of US$50 billion by 2010.
They also agreed to set up a joint task force to study the feasibility of a
free trade area.
According to Indian media, the task force held its first round of talks last
September and the next meeting is scheduled for December.
Liu said Hu's visit will be the climax of the Year of China-India Friendship
and help enhance trust and understanding.
He said both the government and the people are keen to push forward
Sino-Indian co-operation as demonstrated by the newly-minted word "Chindia," and
made well-known in the title of a book by Jairam Ramesh, India's junior minister
In Hanoi, Hu is scheduled to meet US President George W. Bush and Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the APEC Summit.
Vice-Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and visiting US Under-Secretary of State
Nicholas Burns, who is in charge of political affairs, will co-chair the third
China-US Strategic Dialogue in Beijing today.
The meeting between Hu and Abe will be their second since the latter took
office last month and chose China and the Republic of Korea for his first