The Southeast Asian bloc and China announced in Singapore Wednesday that they made substantive progress in the negotiations on the bilateral investment pact which is expected to be signed at the Bangkok Summit in December this year.
On the Day Two of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) Economic Ministers' Meeting, ministers from 10 member states held consultations with their dialogue partner China's Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian, discussing bilateral economic and trade cooperation.
"The ministers welcomed the substantive progress made in the negotiations on the ASEAN-China Investment Agreement and underscored the importance of concluding the Agreement by the 12th ASEAN-China Summit in December 2008," said a joint statement released in Singapore on Wednesday.
The investment pack is one of the three components of the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). The other two are the Trade in Goods Agreement and the Trade in Services Agreements which were concluded in 2004 and 2006 respectively.
The conclusion of negotiations on the investment agreement will pave the way to the finish of talks on FTA, said the statement.
According to ASEAN statistics, the trade value between the ASEAN and China increased from 59.6 billion US dollars in 2003 to 171.1 billion US dollars in 2007, growing at an annual rate of 30 percent.
At the meeting, ASEAN and China also finalized two Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation on intellectual property and technical barriers to trade, according to the statement.
China also proposed to develop the Pan Beibu Gulf Rim region and to conduct of a feasibility study on the regional economic cooperation. The ASEAN ministers said they welcomed this initiative and agreed to study the proposal in detail.
They also discussed other on-going cooperation projects between ASEAN and China.
ASEAN, a market of over 550 million people boasting total trade of 1.6 trillion US dollars and a gross regional product of 1.1 trillion US dollars, has been negotiating on FTA with other dialogue partners at various levels.
The FTAs between ASEAN and India, New Zealand and Australia respectively are expected to be finalized this week.
(Xinhua News Agency August 28, 2008)