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Spotlight: China launches FTA push at ASEAN summits

(Xinhua)    08:34, November 22, 2015
Spotlight: China launches FTA push at ASEAN summits
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addresses the 18th ASEAN-China summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2015. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov. 21 -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged his country's efforts to push forward several free trade agreements (FTA) with various parties at a series of East Asian leaders' and bilateral meetings here on Saturday.

Beijing eyes FTAs as a way to further open up to the outside world and speed up domestic reforms, an effective approach to integrate into the global economy and strengthen economic cooperation with other economies, as well as an important supplement to the multilateral trading system.


Li, addressing the leaders' meeting between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), called on the two sides to accelerate the implementation of the results of the negotiations on an upgrade of their FTA.

The two sides should raise the level of trade and investment facilitation, so as to realize the target of scaling up their two-way trade to 1 trillion U.S. dollars by 2020, Li said.

The China-ASEAN FTA is the largest of its kind in developing countries that benefits the largest population of more than 1.8 billion.

The agreement came into effect on Jan. 1, 2010 and since then China has become ASEAN's biggest trade partner while ASEAN the third largest trade partner of China.

In addition, Li urged concerted efforts by China and ASEAN to conclude as early as possible the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The RCEP is a proposed collective FTA between the 10 member states of ASEAN and six countries with which ASEAN has individual FTAs: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

"As China continues to rise in the world, greater integration or opportunities and engagement between ASEAN and China is something positive," Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was quoted by The Straits Times, Singapore's highest-selling paper, as saying.


When meeting his Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, on the sidelines of the leaders' meetings, Li said China is ready to work with Australia to put their FTA into effect as soon as possible before the end of the year.

Li also called on the two countries to raise the level of mutual investment.

China welcomes more Australian companies to invest and develop in China and hopes that Australia will provide more conveniences for Chinese investors, Li said.

China and Australia signed the historic agreement on June 17 in Canberra of Australia, finalizing negotiations that began 10 years ago.

Upon full implementation of the agreement, tariffs will be lifted on 95 percent of Australian exports, hurdles lowered for Chinese businesses to invest in Australia, and more visas granted for Chinese on working holidays.

The Chinese government has said in a statement that the signing of the FTA was a significant development because, of all the FTAs involving China, this one boasted the "highest level of overall trade and investment liberalization."

In a separate meeting with his New Zealand counterpart, John Key, Li called on the two countries to explore means to push forward an upgrade of their FTA.

An agreement to explore the upgrade of the FTA, signed in 2008, was reached during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit in November last year and an assessment process was launched in March.

The Chinese premier arrived in Malaysia on Friday for the 18th ASEAN-China (10+1) leaders' meeting, the 18th ASEAN-China, Japan and South Korea (10+3) leaders' meeting, and the 10th East Asia Summit.

During his four-day stay in Malaysia, he is also to pay his first official visit to the country since taking office in March 2013.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Editor:Liang Jun,Bianji)

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