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Study to start on free trade in East Asia
Updated: 2005-01-23 22:27

China and relevant countries will begin feasibility study very soon for an East Asia Free Trade Area which will cover China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the 10- member ASEAN nations, a senior Chinese trade official said yesterday in Beijing.

Yi Xiaozhun, assistant minister of commerce, told Xinhua that an East Asia Free Trade Area will help its members to explore more potential for faster economic growth and could benefit all.

China and ASEAN began to implement two major agreements leading to the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. They will cut tariffs for about 7,000 products from July 1 this year.

Meanwhile, Japan and the ROK have also started making similar trade arrangements with ASEAN.

"East Asia is the fastest economically growing region in the world," Yi said. "Total gross domestic product (GDP) in the economies in the region, including China, China's Hong Kong, China's Taiwan Province, Japan, the ROK and ASEAN in 2003 reached US$7.7 trillion, accounting for 21.2 per cent of the world's total."

Within the region, trade has surged over the past years. Total trade volume hit US$918.02 billion in 2003, accounting for 54.5 per cent of the region's total exports.

"It demonstrated that we have had a good basis for regional economic integration," said Yi. "China, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN have been important export markets and destinations for outbound investment for each other."

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made the proposal for an East Asia Free Trade Area in 2003 and the proposal received active responses from leaders of Japan, the Republic of Korea and ASEAN members, Yi said.

But Yi said it will be a gradual and long-term process to establish the proposed trade zone.

"Yet the free trade area will be established with joint efforts from relevant countries," Yi said. "An east Asia with healthy and rapid development will help the prosperity and stability of the entire world."

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