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China-ASEAN free trade area starts operation

Source:china daily    Time: 2010-1-6

     China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) kicked off the world's largest free trade area (FTA) embracing developing countries Friday as businessmen and trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits thronged border markets. 
Dozens of trucks, mostly carrying dragonfruit from Vietnam, were waiting to be unloaded Friday morning at the Tianyuan Fruit Trade Market, one of China's largest market for fruit import, at the Pingxiang Port in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. 
"The establishment of the free trade area is really good news for me," said Liu Yuzhen, who has been trading fruits for 16 years. 
She now sells more than 10 tons of apples, pears, oranges and other fruits to southeast Asia every day, and hopes her business will expand as the FTA will facilitate the customs clearance and reduce the logistics cost. 

The China-ASEAN FTA covers a population of one billion and involves about $450 million of trade volume. 
The average tariff on goods from the ASEAN countries is cut down to 0.1 percent from 9.8 percent. The six original ASEAN members, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, will slash the average tariff on Chinese goods from 12.8 percent to 0.6 percent. 
By 2015, the policy of zero-tariff rate for 90 percent of traded goods is expected to extend between China and four new ASEAN members, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. 

"China's efforts to establish the FTA aim not only at expanding overseas markets, but also promoting trade and investment liberalization, especially amid the global trade protectionism," said Zhang Monan, an economist with the State Information Center. 
China and ASEAN members could cooperate in wider fields, from natural resources to high technologies, she said. "The further economic integration between the two sides could be very competitive in the global economy." 
The FTA would also facilitate more cross-border yuan trade settlements and currency swap agreements between China and ASEAN members, she said. 
The cooperation will help ASEAN members become less dependent on the US dollar, which has become highly volatile as a result of the global financial crisis, she said. 
Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said earlier the establishment of the FTA will promote the regional economic integration, benefiting companies and consumers. 
China and the ASEAN launched their cooperation dialogue in 1991 and signed the China-ASEAN Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Cooperation in 2002.


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