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China, ASEAN to upgrade free trade agreement
August 30, 2013, 5:07 am

Disputes between China and some ASEAN members over the South China Sea was also discussed at the meet [AP Images]

Disputes between China and some ASEAN members over the South China Sea was also discussed at the meet [AP Images]

China on Thursday stressed on ASEAN making the China-led RCEP trade bloc a core of the free trade system in the region.

“China and ASEAN will endeavour to build a more comprehensive FTA to better benefit the companies and peoples, which will also inject new vitality to the regional free trade system building,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China special summit was held in Beijing on Thursday.

The Chinese foreign minister also proposed an Asian currency stability system based on 10+3 financial cooperation, an investment and financing cooperation system and an Asian credit rating system based on the Asian bond market.

During the summit on Thursday, China and ASEAN also agreed to upgrade their free trade agreement (FTA).

“We agreed to accelerate regional economic integration, further open markets to each other, and advance trade and investment liberalization to upgrade our free trade area,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced at a press briefing after a summit of the China and ASEAN.

The FTA, established in January 2010, is the biggest among emerging economies.

Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said the bloc is very keen on an upgraded ASEAN-China FTA “because of what it means for China and what it means for ASEAN”.

“Today… about 60 per cent of the goods that are traded in this region are ultimately manufactured and then find their way to the three economically more advanced regions – US, Europe, Japan. 22 per cent stays in this region. I think as we prosper, as we increase our trading relationship, as we increase our connectivity, that 22 per cent can go much higher, ” he said.

China-ASEAN bilateral trade stood at $400 billion in 2012, six times more than that a decade ago.

The foreign ministers also announced the setting up of a joint investment group for “connectivity projects through sea, land and air”.

Even as it is locked in a bitter territorial dispute with US ally Japan, China is trying to garner political trust within the ASEAN, a key bloc in regional affairs.

In a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has stressed that China-ASEAN relations are the lever for regional stability and prosperity.

“China took the relationship with ASEAN as a priority in its regional diplomacy,” said Keqiang.

Disputes between China and some ASEAN members over the South China Sea was also discussed at the meet.

“There will be no development without peace. The fast growth of regional economic integration is due to peace and stability in the region. We should cherish the regional peace,” Wang said.

The two sides decided to hold the 6th China-ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting to regulate code of conduct in the South China seas on 14th and 15th September in China.

The BRICS Post with Inputs from Agencies

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