China and Pakistan have agreed on market access and basically wrapped up negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA), sources with China's Ministry of Commerce said today.
The two have conducted five rounds of negotiations since last April and the latest wrapped up in Beijing on Friday.
The announcement came ahead of a state visit by President Hu Jintao to neighboring Pakistan, whose trade with China grew 39 percent year-on-year to US$4.26 billion last year.
This month Hu will also visit Vietnam, Laos and India, where talks on another potential free trade partnership will be held, and attend the 14th Economic Leaders Informal Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Hanoi from November 17 to 19.
Chinese authorities have expressed their willingness to discuss with Japan the establishment of an FTA after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed the idea on November 3.
The past five years have seen China establish FTAs with various trading partners. As the world's fourth largest economy, it has been talking with 27 countries and regions about the establishment of nine FTAs, covering a quarter of China's total trade, according to sources with the Ministry of Commerce.
Last year China signed an FTA cargo trade agreement with Chile and started an all-round tariff reduction process with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The mainland, meanwhile, implemented a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with Hong Kong and Macao.
China is also holding FTA talks with Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Gulf countries.
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Cui Tiankai said FTAs are necessary to the economic and trade development of China and its partners. "China hopes all these negotiations will achieve substantial progress and lead to FTAs as early as possible," he said.
The China-Pakistan FTA talks started last April in Islamabad after Premier Wen Jiabao and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz signed an "early harvest" FTA, under which China would impose agreed tariff rates on 2,244 categories of products originating in Pakistan.
(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2006)