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China, ASEAN become 4th-largest trade partners
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China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) became each other's fourth-largest trading partners last year, the China-ASEAN Business Council said in Beijing on Friday.

Total bilateral trade surged 25.9 percent year-on-year to US$202.5 billion, reaching that level three years ahead of the mutual target.

Arin Jira, the secretary-general of ASEAN Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said that they expected further increases and hoped China would lift duties on some export goods, such as semi-processed steel products.

The current export duties for such goods, including slabs, ranged from 5 percent to 25 percent. Arin said he hoped they could be lifted before 2015.

Yang Zunqing, secretary-general of the China Iron & Steel Association, said that soaring ore prices and government efforts to reduce steel exports resulted in the declining export volume. He said that China could provide equipment and technology to help ASEAN countries process their own raw materials, such as gas and ore, which were abundant in these countries.

Arin also called for uniform export quality standards. "I wish we could sit down and talk about specific details soon," he said.

ASEAN, which wants to establish a single market and production base, has 10 members, including Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.

(Xinhua News Agency March 1, 2008)

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