China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are speeding up the tariff reduction process to facilitate establishment of the free trade area (FTA), according to a senior foreign trade official in Beijing.
China’s average tariff on ASEAN countries’ goods was slashed from 9.9% to 8.1% last year, while the ratio will drop to 6.6% next year, said Yin Zonghua, deputy director with the Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Commerce.
The average tariff level will continue to drop to 2.4% in 2009, and finally in 2010, which is the scheduled time for the establishment of the China-ASEAN FTA, 93% of products from ASEAN countries will be tariff-free, according to Yin.
Yin disclosed the tariff reduction plan at the third China-ASEAN FTA Seminar, which was organized by the ASEAN Committee in Beijing and the China-ASEAN Business Council.
ASEAN countries have also made similar arrangements, said Yin, citing Thailand as the example.
Thailand reduced its average tariff for Chinese products from 12.9% to 10.7% last year, while it plans to further lower it to 2.8% in 2009, according to Yin.
“The practice shows that tariff reduction has remarkably boosted trade between China and ASEAN,” said Yin.
Official statistics show that China’s trade with ASEAN totaled US$130.4 billion last year, with imports valued at US$75 billion and exports at US$55.4 billion.
In the first eight months of this year, China imported US$56 billion of products from ASEAN and exported US$44.9 billion. And the total trade with ASEAN this year is expected to surpass US$150 billion, according to Yin.
Both China and ASEAN benefit from the tariff reduction practice and they will achieve win-win results from the FTA, he noted.
China’s then Premier Zhu Rongji proposed the establishment of China-ASEAN FTA in November 2000, and it was approved by leaders the next year.
In November 2002, the leaders signed the Framework Agreement on China-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation, and set the ball rolling on the FTA.
By 2010, China will establish FTAs with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, while Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar can enjoy five more years of transition.
Besides pushing the development of goods trade, China and ASEAN will also speed up negotiations on service trade and investment so as to construct the FTA in a comprehensive way, according to Yin.
Bambang Khaeroni, trade attach with the Indonesia Embassy in China, said that cooperation between China and ASEAN “has been working dynamically.”
Indonesia has long been involved in regional co-operation initiatives such as ASEAN and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation), said Khaeroni.
“These experiences can be implemented to promote strategic cooperation between China and ASEAN through China-Indonesia bilateral cooperation,” he noted, showing great enthusiasm towards pushing the establishment of the FTA. (Asia Pulse)