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China, ASEAN to conclude FTA negotiation during premier's Thailand trip
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China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will conclude their Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiation during Premier Wen Jiabao's upcoming Thailand trip for ASEAN involved meetings.

As a highlight of the 12th summit between the ASEAN and China (10+1), the two sides would ink an investment deal, which marks the conclusion of the FTA negotiation, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue told a press briefing.

China and the ASEAN had agreed to establish a free trade area by 2010. "This goal will be achieved on schedule," Hu said.

Besides the 10+1 summit, Wen's trip from April 10-12 to Pattaya in Thailand will also include the 12th summit between the ASEAN and China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK)(10+3), the 4th East Asia Summit, and the breakfast meeting of leaders from China, Japan, and the ROK.

Wen will discuss with leaders of the ASEAN countries measures to combat the global financial crisis, and offer proposals to boost east Asian cooperation.

"China attaches great importance to these meetings, and will attend in the spirit of increasing confidence and cooperation," Hu said.

"We will work with other participants to build Asian nations' confidence in development, promote pragmatic cooperation in east Asia, safeguard developing countries' interests and jointly survive the global financial crisis," he noted.

Hu also expressed China's expectation to push forward the integration process of ASEAN and the building of ASEAN Community.

All concerned parties should support the ASEAN's effort in promoting the integration process, he said, especially calling for assistance to less developed ASEAN countries.

As to the prospect of China-ASEAN relations, the assistant foreign minister said the two sides should try to maintain the growth of bilateral trade, increase investment and expand cooperation in infrastructure facility construction and tourism.

"We will consider increasing assistance to the less developed ASEAN countries to help them overcome the current difficulties," he noted.

In the financial area, Hu said countries in the region should facilitate financial cooperation, expand foreign exchange reserve and speed up putting into operation the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM), a regional foreign reserve pool in case of currency flow shortage.

China and the ASEAN have established a strategic partnership aiming at peace and prosperity and have defined 11 major cooperative fields such as agriculture, information and communication, transportation, tourism and human resources exploitation.

The ASEAN, founded in 1967, groups 10 members of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2009)

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