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Investment pact urged with bloc
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10:24, April 02, 2008

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NANNING: Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan yesterday pushed for an early conclusion of talks on a China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) free trade area investment agreement to expand mutual investment.

"The two sides should continue stepping up dialogue on investment policies and work for an early conclusion of talks on an FTA investment agreement," Zeng said in his keynote speech delivered at the opening of the Fourth China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in the capital of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

He also urged the building of a service platform to support enterprises of both sides, especially small- and medium-sized firms.

"The Chinese side will increase investment in ASEAN countries, which are the major target areas for enterprises to conduct overseas operations," said Zeng.

The efforts include the establishment of several trade and economic cooperation zones in ASEAN countries to help Chinese enterprises enter the region, he added.

In July, the first round of the China-ASEAN service trade agreements came into effect, two years after the commodity trade agreements in 2005. It is believed that there will be another two rounds of service trade agreements and ongoing talks on investments before 2010, the deadline China and ASEAN have set for the FTA.

The past five years have witnessed remarkable growth in China-ASEAN economic relations.

Since the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation was signed in November 2002 - the starting point of the FTA - bilateral trade has increased by over 190 percent, reaching $160.8 billion in 2006.

ASEAN is currently China's fourth largest trade partner, and vice versa. The volume is expected to reach $200 billion in 2008, two years ahead of the target set by the two sides.

"China and ASEAN could be strategically important partners as they are culturally similar and economically complementary," said Zeng.

Under the commodity trade agreements, tariffs on about 7,000 commodities will be reduced by 2010, and China and ASEAN have respectively opened five and 26 industries to each other in the service sector.

"We could firstly focus on 10 selected areas, including agriculture, telecommunications, tourism, energy, human resources, and transportation," said Zeng.

He also tried to reassure ASEAN nations about the quality of Chinese food products.

The Nanning Joint Declaration, which aims to strengthen communications in quality-related issues, is scheduled to be issued today.

Source: China Daily

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