Nanning, October 30:
China today called for work to be speeded up on efforts to create a m-assive free trade zone w-ith Southeast Asia that will incorporate a third of worldâ€™s populatio-n. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao also told a one-day leadersâ€™ summit with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that deepening economic ties beyond the free trade plans would benefit both sides.
ASEAN and China unveiled a plan four years ago to create their free trade zone by 2010. It will have a combined population of nearly two billion people and a gross domestic product of about three trillion dollars. As part of their 2002 framework agreement on economic cooperation, tariff cuts and a freer trade in goods between China and ASEAN began in July last year, while talks on liberalising trade in services and investment are ongoing. Wen said a 2004 deal for trade in goods as part of the framework â€˜should be fully implemented.â€™
â€œAnd negotiations on trade in service and investment should be accelerated to speed up the process of establishing the China-ASEAN F-ree Trade Area,â€ he said.
Chinaâ€™s efforts to advance free trade with Southeast Asia are more advanced than those of other East Asian nations, and Wen called for another agreement to cement economic ties. â€œWe should consider signing a follow-up pact on expanding economic and trade ties,â€ he said, without elaborating on the proposal. As part of efforts to boost ties, Wen announced that China would contribute $1 mi-llion to an ASEAN Development Fund.