China supports upgrade of FTA

Updated: 2013-10-27 08:08

By Li Jiabao (China Daily)

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China supports the leadership role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in East Asia cooperation and regional economic integration, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday.

Li also promised to upgrade the Sino-ASEAN free trade agreement by enhancing trust and cooperation with ASEAN members, further benefiting the region. Li made a remarks after meeting with the delegation of ASEAN economic ministers.

The delegation, which included more than 120 officials from the member countries and the secretariat, is visiting China this week and organized road shows in Chengdu, Shanghai and Beijing.

The officials are promoting trade and investment opportunities to Chinese provincial executives and local businesses.

"China and the ASEAN have great potential in trade, investment and cultural cooperation, and the delegation's road show in China and promotion of trade and investment opportunities of the ASEAN will help actualize the 2+7 proposal," Li said.

Li, attending the 16th China-ASEAN Summit, proposed the 2+7 (two political consensuses and seven areas of cooperation) framework, which represents the new Chinese leadership's new vision on expanding the China-ASEAN relationship.

Li appreciated the delegation's trip to Beijing from South China with the country's high-profile high-speed train. President Xi Jinping and the premier have been actively promoting China's high-speed train during recent visits to Southeast Asia.

At a conference in the capital on diplomatic work on Friday, Xi said that China will strive for a sound neighborly environment for its own development and seek common development with neighboring countries.

Xi stressed the necessity of good diplomacy with neighboring countries to realize the "centenary goals" set by the 18th Communist Party of China National Congress in November: a moderately prosperous society by 2021; and a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and modern socialist country by 2049.

CPC leadership in previous generations attached high importance to diplomacy with neighboring countries, raising important issues and a guiding policy, opening up a generally sound environment, and laying the foundation for diplomacy, Xi said at the conference, held on Oct 24-25.

With respect to geography, the environment and intertwined relations, Xi said the region has a major strategic significance. Dealing with neighboring countries "should have a three-dimensional, multi-element perspective, beyond time and space".

"China welcomes investment from ASEAN while encouraging domestic enterprises to go to the bloc to invest in infrastructure, including railways," Li said. "The infrastructure interconnectivity in the region greatly boosts the trade boom and flow. We will make it come true as long as we join hands and make concerted efforts."

Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, Thailand's deputy prime minister and minister of commerce, said that "the ASEAN welcomes China's proposal of upgrading the China-ASEAN FTA and is willing to cooperate with China in enhancing facilities of the regional infrastructure interconnectivity to build a better future for East Asia cooperation".

Zhao Jinping, a researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council, echoed Boonsongpaisan's sentiments.

"East Asia is facing great cooperation opportunities, and strengthening infrastructure should be a top priority, which will resolve short-term challenges while setting down the foundation of long-term development.

"In addition, the establishment of the Asian infrastructure investment bank should be accelerated."

China is the fourth-largest investor in ASEAN, which in turn is China's third-largest source of foreign direct investment. Mutual cumulative investment stood at about $110 billion as of the end of August, the Ministry of Commerce says.

Boonsongpaisan said during a meeting with Chinese Commerce Ministry Gao Hucheng on Friday that next year will be another important milestone for the trade and investment relationship, since China and ASEAN have decided to upgrade the FTA by, among other means, improving market conditions and the bilateral trade balance, and expanding the scope and coverage of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and China.

(China Daily 10/27/2013 page1)