ASEAN pact introduces new era of co-op

Updated: 2011-11-14 07:47

By Bao Chang (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The "ASEAN Plus One" collaboration was a new chapter in global cooperation, and it was one that raised the international profile of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its members.

Composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, ASEAN signed a free trade agreement with China that took effect in January 2010.

"After being fully implemented last year, the free trade area between China and ASEAN has brought many benefits to the latter," said Xu Ningning, executive vice secretary-general of the China-ASEAN Business Council.

China is ASEAN's biggest trading partner, and Chinese customs data show that bilateral trade rose 26.4 percent in the first nine months of 2011 to $267 billion, with an $18.9 billion surplus in favor of ASEAN.

Premier Wen Jiabao said in late October that China is willing to expand imports from ASEAN. He made the comment during the 8th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, capital of South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

From January to September, China's imports from ASEAN surged 27.9 percent to $143 billion.

The China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) "has increased rather than decreased the international competitiveness of ASEAN and ASEAN's capacity to export to China has become stronger rather than weaker", Wen said, urging both sides to find appropriate solutions to problems in the zone's development.

China and ASEAN aim to increase bilateral trade volume to $500 billion by 2015.

China will establish an economic and trade cooperation zone with each ASEAN member within the next five years, providing an investment platform for all enterprises.

"ASEAN members have benefited from the establishment of CAFTA in terms of trade and investment, because China is a huge market, attracting numerous investors worldwide," Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of ASEAN, was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.

"We will also get more investment opportunities in China especially in cities in the country's southern and western provinces", he added.

"The rise of the free trade area between China and ASEAN is not only a milestone for China", Fan Ying, professor at China Foreign Affairs University, said.

"China's deep commitment, trust and generosity in regional integration has set a good example to the world and demonstrates the democratic philosophy of the Chinese government, which embodies peaceful development, mutual benefit and a stable long-term relationship."

Fan said that the Chinese leadership envisioned the strategy of building a free trade area between China and ASEAN members, pushing it forward with open communication with all parties and making a great contribution to regional development.

"The free trade area combines China and ASEAN into a community with mutual interests, and the bloc has been striving to strengthen its (influence) globally such as pushing forward the Doha Round of trade talks," Xu said.