Channel News Asia | 31 July 2007
China to seal FTA with ASEAN before signing one with Singapore
SINGAPORE: China will likely conclude the free trade agreement (FTA) with ASEAN first before sealing a similar deal with Singapore, said Chinese Ambassador to Singapore, Zhang Xiaokang.
According to her, the China-ASEAN FTA is into its final stage.
When a free trade agreement is signed between two parties, goods can flow more freely between them and they can tap on each other’s economic markets more efficiently.
Singapore has held its first round of FTA talks with China late last year and China is now keen to further the relationship with Southeast Asia and Singapore.
Ms Zhang said: "The Chinese government has always attached great importance to developing relations between China and ASEAN and so far, the relations and cooperation have been carried out in a fairly efficient way.
"As mentioned, the AFTA, the China-ASEAN free trade agreement, has been going on in a fairly efficient manner and has already entered into the third stage. I think China-ASEAN relations have entered into a very good stage of comprehensive, practical attitude and also maturity.
"In this connection, I think China certainly needs to further foster the political, mutual trust, economic mutual benefit and also mutual cultural engagement and mutual help on security areas. And certainly, we’d like to support the ASEAN integrating process.
"We fully support that ASEAN plays a leading role in regional cooperation and we’d like to join the efforts with ASEAN countries to maintain the peace and stability in this region and strive for common prosperity together."
On relations between Singapore and China, Ms Zhang said the recent visit to the city-state by China’s Vice-Premier Wu Yi was an affirmation of good ties.
She said: "Singapore and China really have enjoyed very good growth of relationship. This very good relationship has been characterised by three features. One is the top-level guidance from the leaders and also very top-level cooperative framework, headed by vice-premiers from both China and Singapore.
"The second feature is very efficient development of our bilateral cooperation. By 2006, bilateral trade had already reached US$40.6 billion and more than 100 Chinese companies have been listed in the Singapore stock exchange. The third feature is very deep cooperation."
Good relations are also evident in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Singapore. Ambassador Zhang said this city-state was the first country to receive over one million Chinese visitors last year.
Direct investments from Singapore to China, as of May this year, reached US$31 billion.