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China-ASEAN FTA to be concluded soon

China-ASEAN free trade agreement expected to be concluded soon
May 24, 2004
Asia Intelligence Wire

fnWEB - Bangkok - May 24, 2004 - Negotiations on the establishment of a free trade area (FTA) between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) are now expected to be concluded soon.

The Chinese-ASEAN FTA Negotiation Committee has held dozens of meetings, and negotiations are proceeding so smoothly that it is likely that Beijing and ASEAN will conclude their FTA deal before the earlier scheduled date of 30 June, according to a news report of Vietnam News Agency (VNA), which quoted local sources in Beijing as saying.

If clinched, the Chinese-ASEAN FTA will become the world’s largest FTA, with 1.7 billion consumers totally and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$2 trillion.

The proposed FTA was scheduled to be commenced as of 2010, said the VNA news report, disseminated to TNA.

Agriculture, Information and Communication technologies, human resources development, mutual investment, and the development of the Mekong River have been identified as priority areas for immediate cooperation.

Two-way trade beween China and ASEAN member countries reached US$78.25 billion in 2003, an increase of 42.8 per cent from the previous year, according to an official survey from the China General Statistics Department.

China’s imports from ASEAN countries surged by 50 per cent to US$47 billion last year; while Beijing’s exports to ASEAN stood at nearly US$31 billion, up by 31.1 percent from 2002, said the news report.

ASEAN now groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Thailand and Australia are likely to sign their bilateral free trade area agreement (FTA) in mid 2004, which will be effective as of 1 January, 2005, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Under the Thai-Australian FTA pact, which would be Thailand’s first free trade agreement covering a comprehensive list of goods and services, the two countries would eliminate import tariffs on most products by 2010, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

Thailand has signed FTAs with India and China, but they are limited to certain sectors.

Australia has agreed to bring tariffs down to 0 per cent for over 5,000 import items, or 85 per cent of the products it totally imports from Thailand, including fruits, vegetables and automobiles.

Thailand, on the other hand, has agreed to eliminate tariffs on 50 per cent of Australian imports next year, including fuel and chemical products.

The two countries are required to eliminate import tariffs on almost all products by 2010.

However, both countries can temporarily resume higher tariffs on specific products if local industries concerned are hurt by an influx of imported goods after the FTA deal takes effect.

Last year, trade between Thailand and Australia amounted to around 150 billion baht, or about US$3.85 billion.

Thailand expects to sign more FTAs with Japan and Bahrain this year, and with the US and Peru next year, according to the Commerce Ministry statement.

Copyright © 2004 fnAsia Advisory Co., Ltd.

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