China's Commerce Minister Chen Deming and the economic ministers from 10 ASEAN member states Saturday morning signed the ASEAN-China Investment Agreement during the 41st ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) and related meetings here.
The signing of the investment agreement, together with already-signed China-ASEAN agreements of the trade in goods and services, completed the negotiation process of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA), which is to be realized by January 1, 2010.
"The China-ASEAN FTA will be an advanced FTA that covers an extensive area of 13,000,000 square kilometers with a population of 1.9 billion ", Chen told Xinhua after the signing ceremony.
The Investment Agreement, 27 clauses included, tries to provide a free, transparent and justice investment mechanism for investors from both sides, who can enjoy most-favored-nation treatment, citizen treatment, and fair and equitable treatment on reciprocal investment, said Zhang Kening, Counselor from the International Department of the Chinese Commerce Ministry.
China and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched their cooperation dialogue in 1991 and signed the China-ASEAN Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation in 2002, proposing the ASEAN-China FTA by Jan. 1, 2009.
After the two sides had negotiated since 2003, the agreement would expand trade and investment between ASEAN and China as well as enhance economic ties with China, Thailand's Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said in a news release.
Both sides agreed to support foreign direct investment of their investors, as well as promote and protect investments of Parties to the Agreement by giving non-discriminatory and fair treatment to investors, compensating investors in case of expropriation and providing for investors-State dispute settlement, Porntiva said.
Investment facilitation and protection will result in increase in production, exports, and trade volume of both sides, Porntiva said.
Porntiva said China is an important trade partner of ASEAN and is the fourth largest export market of ASEAN. In 2009 (January-September) ASEAN export to China was approximately 85.6 billion U.S. dollars.
China is the third largest source of import of ASEAN. Imports from China valued at nearly 107.0 billion U.S. dollars, the Thai minister said.
This will lead to an increase in green field investments and reinvestment of profit in sustainable way. This is in line with the objectives of the ASEAN Economic Community, she said.
China is the 8th largest investor in ASEAN, with accumulated investments as of 2008 valued at 6.1 billion U.S. dollars, while ASEAN accumulated investments in China as of 2008 were valued at 5.6 billion U.S. dollars, she said.
The 41st meetings have been focusing on the economic integration within the ASEAN region as the ASEAN Economic Community is expected to complete in 2015, in which investment, capital and skilled labor can flow freely.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu, who presided over the official opening ceremony on Friday, said that it is crucial that the ASEAN region will be the outward-looking group since it is essential to live harmoniously within other community in the world as the ultimate goal for ASEAN integration.
Prior to the official opening ceremony, high level officials from the 10 ASEAN-member countries began on Wednesday discussing and setting up economic policies and topics prior to submitting to the related ministers on these following days.
And, on Thursday, the ASEAN economic ministers and Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma signed a long-awaited free trade agreement (FTA) for trade in goods after over six years of intense negotiations.