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ASEAN and China on track to sign free-trade deal by 2013

Philippine Daily Inquirer | Aug 13, 2005

ASEAN and China on track to sign free-trade deal by 2013

Agence France-Presse

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Friday said a free trade agreement with China will be signed by 2013, and that Malaysia’s exports to China surged 25 percent to a record high last year.

Abdullah said the free-trade pact between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China would be completed by 2013 while the initial common tariff reduction would be finished by 2006.

"I believe Malaysia-China trade relations will strengthen in the years ahead. Do not worry about political risks. In the years to come, Malaysia-China ties will remain strong," he said at a two-day Malaysia-China business forum.

Malaysia was the first country in ASEAN to establish diplomatic ties with China, in 1974.

Abdullah said that Malaysia’s exports to China rose 25 percent last year to a new record of 8.5 billion dollars.

He said China was Malaysia’s fourth-largest trading partner last year with total trade of almost 19 billion dollars. Malaysia was also China’s eighth largest trading partner last year.

Malaysia’s exports to China include power generation equipment, mineral fuels, palm oil and animal fats.

Abdullah urged Malaysian businessmen not to regard China as an economic threat but a land filled with opportunities.

"China is not a threat. China is a country of opportunity. At the same time we see China as a real challenge. This certainly does not estrange us but will only enhance our competitiveness," he said.

Abdullah also said that with China having acceded to a non-aggression pact with ASEAN, it was "becoming a trusted friend and responsible regional actor".

Last year was declared Sino-Malaysia Friendship Year to celebrate the establishment of diplomatic relations on May 31, 1974.

But ties go back as far as the 15th century when Chinese admiral Cheng Ho, or Zheng He, arrived in southern Malacca state to trade.

 source: AFP