China, ASEAN set 2015 as goal for up­grad­ing free trade agree­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAOYINANinNay Pyi TawandZHONGNANin Beijing

China and the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions mem­bers have set a goal to con­clude the ne­go­ti­a­tions on up­grad­ing the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area by the end of 2015, as both sides are keen to pur­sue a larger foothold in each other’s lu­cra­tive mar­kets with more ac­cess to for­eign goods and in­vest­ment.

Premier Li Ke­qiang said China is will­ing to take part in the CAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions on the ba­sis of the pre-es­tab­lish­ment of na­tional treat­ment plus the neg­a­tive list model, as well as sup­port­ingHong Kong fur­ther in talks on build­ing a free trade area with ASEAN coun­tries.

“China will set aside 30 mil­lion yuan ($4.9 mil­lion) over the next three years to support eco­nomic and tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two sides,” Li said on Thurs­day at the 17th China-ASEAN Lead­ers’ Meet­ing, in Nay Pyi Taw, the cap­i­tal ofMyan­mar.

The two­sides launched their first round of ne­go­ti­a­tions on up­grad­ing CAFTA in Septem­ber, and agreed to fo­cus on key ar­eas of trade in goods, ser­vice trade, dis­pute set­tle­ment and in­vest­ment.

Launched in 2010, CAFTA has be­come the world’s largest free trade area among de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, with a pop­u­la­tion of 1.9 bil­lion.

“In our view, var­i­ous FTA ar­range­ments need to play a pos­i­tive role in fos­ter­ing a just and free in­ter­na­tional and re­gional trade or­der,” said Li.

While ac­cel­er­at­ing CAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions, China has con­trib­uted to Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship ne­go­ti­a­tions, which have moved from con­sul­ta­tions on pro­ce­dures to a new stage of sub­stan­tive ne­go­ti­a­tions.

More­over, par­ties at­tend­ing the just-con­cluded APEC Eco­nomicLead­ers’Meet­ing in Beijing all sup­ported start­ing talks on es­tab­lish­ing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pa­cific. China is also open to ne­go­ti­a­tions on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

Li said China will en­cour­age its com­pa­nies to invest in the ASEAN mem­ber mar­kets, as well as co­op­er­at­ing with lo­cal part­ners to build cross-bor­der busi­nesses and in­dus­trial zones to ac­cel­er­ate the pace of re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion.

China is ASEAN’s largest trad­ing part­ner, while ASEAN ranks as China’s third-largest trad­ing part­ner. Bi­lat­eral trade in­creased 11 per­cent year-on-year to $443.61 bil­lion in 2013.

In the first three quarters of this year, the trade fig­ure reached $346.6 bil­lion, a 7.5 per­cent year-on-year in­crease. Both sides are also de­ter­mined to push their trade vol­ume to $500 bil­lion by 2015 and $1 tril­lion by 2020.

Wang Zhile, a se­nior re­searcher at the Chi­nese Academy of In­ter­na­tional Trade and Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion said as coun­tries dif­fer in their eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment modes, pil­lar in­dus­tries and po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ments, China is tak­ing a flex­i­ble stance in ne­go­ti­a­tions to up­grade CAFTA and al­low spe­cial treat­ment for the least de­vel­oped ASEAN coun­tries.

Ea­ger to build up a solid co­op­er­a­tive foun­da­tion, the two sides have im­ple­mented a large num­ber of projects in power gen­er­a­tion, bridge­build­ing, agri­cul­ture and man­u­fac­tur­ing dur­ing the past decade.

China has set up the Chi­naASEAN In­vest­ment Co­op­er­a­tion Fund to pro­vide the ASEAN with pref­er­en­tial fi­nanc­ing support, which has pro­moted the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of ASEAN coun­tries and ben­e­fited lo­cal peo­ples.

“The new­co­op­er­a­tive de­vel­op­ment be­tween China and ASEAN mem­bers is not only or mainly about broad­en­ing trade lib­er­al­iza­tion, but also about build­ing frame­works for ef­fi­cient reg­u­la­tory co­op­er­a­tion and in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture, in­dus­trial and so­cial de­vel­op­ment to fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion at a new level with more real ac­tions, cre­ative ideas and meth­ods,” saidWang. Con­tact the writer at zhaoy­i­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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