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ASEAN economic relationship booming
By Jiang Jingjing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-16 05:59

The trade and economic co-operation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been deepening and broadening, a Chinese commercial official said yesterday. He added that the implementation of the free trade agreement is in full swing.

Fu Ziying, assistant minister of commerce, said the scale of China-ASEAN trade and economic co-operation has been growing, and its level improving, ushering in "a prime era" of development.

Since launching the China-ASEAN free trade agreement in 2002, bilateral trade has increased by an annual rate of 38.9 per cent, Fu said at a State Council Information Office press conference.

Last year, bilateral trade registered at US$105.9 billion, reaching the US$100 billion target one year ahead of schedule, he said.

In the first half of this year, bilateral trade hit US$59.76 billion, up by 25 per cent year-on-year.

ASEAN is now China's fourth largest trading partner.

He went on to say that President Hu Jintao set a target during his visit to ASEAN in April that China's trade volume with ASEAN should reach US$200 billion by 2010.

Fu said that China and ASEAN are preparing for the negotiations on the service trade, which includes the areas of finance, logistics, tourism and insurance.

The negotiations are expected to be carried out late this year, Fu said.

He revealed that market opening is the major focus of the negotiations, tackling questions like which areas to open, and how and when to open.

"There are still different standpoints between China and ASEAN on such issues, so it will take a big effort from both sides," Fu said.

As for the establishment of a free trade agreement, Fu said the process is speeding up, especially after the launch of a tariff reduction programme in the region in July.

"Since the process was initiated, goods between China and ASEAN have been able to enter each other's markets smoothly with low or zero tariffs, and under improved terms of market access," he said.

According to the tariff-reduction programme, 7,000 kinds of commodities will enjoy reductions. The tariffs on 3,408 of these commodities will be cut this year.

China will hold the Second China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Nanning, the capital of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in South China, between October 19-20.

In total, 3,293 booths will be set up for the expo, which is part of the summit.

So far, 2,075 booths have been confirmed by domestic participants, and 652 by enterprises from ASEAN countries, Japan and South Korea.

More than 3,000 overseas purchasers are expected to attend the expo.

The expo will focus on demonstrating five categories of commodities: machinery and equipment, electronics and electrical appliances, hardware and building materials, light industry and handcrafts, agricultural products and foodstuffs.

(China Daily 09/16/2005 page2)

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