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ASEAN may become China's 3rd largest trade partner
2009/5/7 15:56:00

The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is likely to replace Japan as China's third largest trade partner in the future, said a Chinese trade official Thursday.

Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng made the remarks at a preparatory meeting of the 6th China-ASEAN Expo in Qinzhou city, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Gao said, China-ASEAN relations have developed further, featured by frequent high-level visits and closer economic and trade relations. "Considering the current development momentum, ASEAN is likely to become China's third largest trade partner in the future."

Greater efforts would be put into making the ASEAN-China free trade area (ACFTA) a reality by 2010, Gao told the preparatory meeting.

China and ASEAN launched their cooperation dialogue in 1991 and signed the China-ASEAN Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation in 2002, proposing the ACFTA by 2010.

In November 2004, China and ASEAN signed an agreement on goods trade and a similar agreement on services in 2007.

Under ACFTA, China's standard import tariff for ASEAN goods averaged 5.8 percent from 2007 and dropped to 2.4 percent this year. It will end tariffs on 93 percent of its imports from ASEAN in 2010 while ASEAN, whose standard import tariff for China averaged 6.3 percent in 2007, would make similar arrangements, said Gao.

Trade between ASEAN and China shot up from $105.9 billion in 2004 to $202.5 billion in 2007.

"ASEAN gets more attention among Chinese businesses as China considers the association a key region to implement its goal of encouraging Chinese companies to diversify into overseas markets," said Gao.

The encouragement had helped China cushion the negative impact of the global financial crisis, he said.

Trade between ASEAN and China rose by 14 percent to $231.12 billion last year despite the global financial crisis, which made ASEAN China's fourth largest trade partner after the European Union, the United States and Japan.

By 2010, when the ACFTA is established, bilateral trade volume will amount to $1.2 trillion, transforming the area into the world's third largest FTA by trade volume after those in North America and Europe.

The 6th China-ASEAN Expo will run from Oct 20 to 24 in Nanning, capital of Guangxi. The first such event was held in 2004.

Formed in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

From:China Daily      
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