China-ASEAN FTA to greatly benefit Cambodia and region: officials

09:35, December 28, 2009      

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Cambodian government officials expressed their belief that the establishment of the China-ASEAN free trade area (FTA) on Jan. 1 will be sure to promote the development of trade and economic cooperation of the region and benefit greatly the country and the people.

"We are looking forward to and paid great attentions to the building of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area scheduled on Jan. 1, 2010," Keat Chhon, minister of economy and finance, told Xinhua recently.

"Cambodia is a open country and our National Assembly has already approved the agreement of the China-ASEAN FTA," said Keat Chhon at the 4th annual Export-Import and One Province, One Product Exhibition in Phnom Penh.

The China-ASEAN FTA will open up a more extensive and smooth way for Cambodia to develop international trade and economic relations and to make the country a more attractive place to invest, he said.

In November 2002, leaders of China and the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formally signed the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Co-operation between China and the ASEAN in Phnom Penh, marking the beginning of the construction process of a China-ASEAN free trade area. As enshrined in the agreement, China-ASEAN FTA will be completed in 2010.

The free trade agreement will lift tariffs on most commodities between China and ASEAN countries.

Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh also said that "with FRA, the market in China will be widely open, and Cambodia has a lot of agricultural products to export and right now China may have more money than the U.S. to buy the goods."

Cambodia enjoys excellent geographic position and has a political stability, as well as preferential policies for foreign direct investment, the minister said. So he hopes the duty-free status for goods will attract and encourage more Chinese investorsto invest in Cambodia, helping Cambodia expand manufacturing. At the same time, investors in Cambodia can produce and export large numbers of high quality products not only to China but also to more than 560 million people in the ASEAN regional markets.

Moreover, agro-industries, agriculture and manufacturing are among several areas that Cambodia is encouraging businesses to invest in, Prasidh said.

The bilateral trade between China and ASEAN member countries keeps rising greatly at present, ASEAN would become one of China's top trade partners in 2010 when the China-ASEAN FTA is in place.

The China-ASEAN FTA will become the world's most populous free trade area, with a total population of 1.9 billion, and will be a new engine to drive the growth of the world economy, observers here said.

"Cambodia is a potential exporting country in the region," stressed Cham Prasidh.

"As Cambodia is located in the center of the region, it provides favorable conditions for investors in exporting their products to 310 million people in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and 560 million people in ASEAN as well as other countries around the world where Cambodia got the MFN and GSP," he said.

To open their markets to each other, both consumers and businesses from China and ASEAN are increasingly feeling the benefits of a free trade area, he said. Due to tariff reduction, consumers can consume each other's products more cheaper, and enterprises can import duty-free products for their products and thus lower production costs, improving product competitiveness, gain greater market development, he added.

The building of the China-ASEAN FTA will not only have a great impetus for the trade and economic cooperation between China and ASEAN, but also will play a key role in promoting the region's economic growth as well as the capacity to resist such attacks as that from the world financial crisis, the minister said.

Source: Xinhua
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