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China, Singapore sign free trade pact
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China and Singapore on Thursday signed a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) ahead of the seventh Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) to be held in Beijing on Oct. 24-25.

The signing of the FTA was witnessed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who kicked off his China visit on Wednesday afternoon.

Negotiations for the China-Singapore FTA began in October 2006.

Previous reports said the FTA covers trade in goods, rules of origin, trade remedies, trade in services, movement of natural persons, investment, customs procedures, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures and economic cooperation.

Trade between the two countries reached US$47.15 billion in 2007. Singapore is China's eighth largest trade partner and the seventh largest investor.

Wen Jiabao said during his meeting with Lee Hsien Loong prior to the signing of the FTA Thursday morning that the pact signals a leap forward in the bilateral ties between the two countries.

He said relations between China and Singapore had always been friendly, cooperative and creative.

Lee Hsien Loong agreed that the growth of the bilateral relations between the two sides, especially the FTA, was "a testimony of the strength of our relationship and reflects our intention to broaden our exchanges and ties," he said.

He said the ASEM is held during major development in the financial sector worldwide, and provides "opportunities to exchange wills in the instable environment."

"It is important for Asian countries to work together, exchange wills, and maintain the dynamic and stamina which characterise the past decades of Asia development," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency October 23, 2008)

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