China-ASEAN expo sends positive signal for trade, investment liberalization

08:50, October 20, 2010      

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China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reassured the world Tuesday that they would continue to work together for trade and investment liberalization at a time when global recovery is at a critical moment.

China and ASEAN kicked off the seventh China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) Tuesday in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the first gathering since the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA), the world's largest FTA boasting a population of 1.9 billion, was established on Jan. 1, 2010.

Representing the first FTA agreement signed by China and the world's first FTA established among developing countries, the CAFTA will provide zero tariffs on 90 percent of the products traded between China and ASEAN and other favorable policies on trade and investment.

"A good-neighborly China-ASEAN relationship of friendship and cooperation provide both sides with great potential of development and numerous business opportunities," Jia Qinglin, China's top political advisor, said in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.

"The frequent and energetic exchanges between China and ASEAN also contributed to Asia's economic recovery from the global downturn and helped with economic stability in the region," said Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Analysts said the mutually beneficial CAFTA was the major driving force that helped propel China and ASEAN out from the bottom of the global economic downturn.

Boosted by CAFTA, China-ASEAN trade has topped 211.3 billion U.S. dollars in the first nine months of this year, an increase of 14 percent from one year ago, according to figures from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

More than 2,000 companies from China and ASEAN member countries -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- are taking part in the six-day event to showcase their goods and services benefited from the CAFTA arrangement.

Organizers of CAEXPO had to disappoint some participants from the region when planning the number of exhibition booths due to limited space.

Prior to the opening of the seventh CAEXPO, companies from China, ASEAN, and even countries outside CAFTA such as Japan, the Republic of Korea, Germany and Canada had applied to be among the 5,360 exhibition booths, hoping to look for investment and trade opportunities at the event.

But it turned out organizers could only provide 4,600 exhibition booths to applicants this year, compared with last year's 4,000.

Cheong Choy Hoong, assistant secretary-general of Singapore Business Federation, told Xinhua in an interview on the sideline of the CAEXPO that the CAFTA has great potential in terms of its geological size or the market broadness.

"If ASEAN and China could integrate well under the CAFTA, it will definitely bring about faster economic growth in the region and a positive influence to the world at large," Cheong said.

During the six-day event, facilitating trade and investment has become the consensus for exhibitors as organizers set up pavilions of commodity trade, services trade and investment cooperation, with the highlights in fields of financial, logistics, cultural and educational services.

"ASEAN and China are close neighbors with strong economic ties and many shared interests," Boediono, Vice President of Indonesia, said in his remarks at the CAEXPO. "The recent global financial challenge has made our relations even stronger."

"For almost two decades, China has been a reliable partner and has played an important role in many of ASEAN's ventures," Boediono said. "ASEAN is expecting greater foreign direct investment inflows from China, particularly in supporting the development of infrastructures and the realization of intra and inter-connectivity of the region."



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