logo logo


In November 2001, China and the 10-member Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) began negotiations to set up a free trade area.

One year later, a framework agreement for the planned FTA was signed. The FTA, a zero-tariff market of more than 1.7 billion people, has been targeted to come into force in 2010 for the six original ASEAN members (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) and in 2015 for the other four (Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam). Implementation of the framework agreement would occur in stages. For instance:

 An early harvest programme covering trade in goods came into force in July 2005.
 Negotiations on a dispute settlement mechanism were finalised in 2004 for implementation in 2005.
 Negotiations on trade in services were completed and an agreement signed in January 2007, for implementation in July 2007.
 The China-ASEAN investment agreement was to be signed at the ASEAN Summit in Thailand in December 2008.

Separately, China signed a bilateral FTA with ASEAN member Singapore in October 2008. Beijing has also been hammering out a lot of separate, smaller and more specific bilateral deals with ASEAN neighbours, such as the infamous Philippine-China investment agreements (the subject of huge corruption scandals in the Philippines in 2007), harmonised food safety standards with Thailand (to facilitate agricultural trade) and numerous arrangements with the Mekong Delta countries.

Politics around the China-ASEAN deal are delicate as ASEAN states want to avoid China’s domination and yet build their economies by interacting with China, especially given the slowdown in demand from the US and European markets. At the same time, China is moving up the manufacturing value-chain losing need for primary products that ASEAN states produce while its search for raw materials such as minerals and oil has rapidly gone global. Finally, the coming into force of full-scale zero-tariff farm trade with China from 2010 onward has raised many fears in the ASEAN world.

last update: May 2012
Photo: MangAndri Kasep / CC BY 2.0

Thailand to pursue FTA with China despite nearly US$30 bn deficit
Thailand and China plan to resume bilateral free trade agreement negotiations this year despite Thailand’s mounting trade deficit with China of nearly US$30 billion.
China to further deepen cooperation with ASEAN, with Version 3.0 FTA expected to target emerging sectors, industrial division
The construction of the Version 3.0 China-ASEAN FTA will cover sectors such as the digital economy, green economy and supply chain connectivity.
China, ASEAN advancing negotiations on FTA 3.0: ministry
China and ASEAN are actively advancing Free Trade Area 3.0 negotiations, enhancing the openness of the China-ASEAN economic and trade system, Vice Minister of Commerce Li Fei said.
High digital stakes in new China–ASEAN new agreement
Negotiations for the third iteration of the China–ASEAN Free Trade Agreement continued beyond June 2023. The development of the digital economy — has raised some alarm bells for ASEAN negotiators and others.
Top diplomat says China, ASEAN pushing ahead with free trade area talks
China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are pushing ahead with talks on a third version of a free trade agreement at an ASEAN summit in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, China’s top diplomat Wang Yi said.
Version 3.0 China-ASEAN FTA holds 3rd round negotiations
The opening ceremony of the third round of negotiations on Version 3.0 China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA) was held Sunday in Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province, said the Ministry of Commerce.
ASEAN, China start negotiations on upgrading bilateral FTA
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China started the first round of negotiations on the upgrade of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area.
China, Singapore complete ’substantial negotiation’ on FTA upgrade
China and Singapore have completed "substantive negotiations" on the upgrade of bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), which will improve market access for each other’s businesses and provide for more transparent and higher-level economic rules.
China to accelerate negotiations on version 3.0 of China-ASEAN FTA
China will accelerate the negotiations on version 3.0 of the China-ASEAN free trade agreement, and make new contributions to the establishment of the China-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership.
China-ASEAN negotiations enter next round
The first round of consultations on the 3.0 version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area negotiations was launched between China and the bloc, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce.