The Chinese government was facilitating regional economic cooperation, Vice Minister of Commerce Yi Xiaozhun said Thursday at the annual meeting of the 21st Century Forum.
"The world has seen an unprecedented move towards regional economic cooperation over the past 10 years," Yi said, noting the move was driven by economic globalization.
Eighty percent of the existing free trade zones were established in the past 10 years, and trade under regional economic cooperation mechanisms accounted for more than 50 percent of international trade.
"The world will enter a new era of development of free trade zones in 10 years, and the major economic powers, including China, will play a leading role," Yi said.
"The government has taken concrete measures to boost regional economic cooperation, and the effort has paid off," he said.
The construction of the China-ASEAN free trade zone was proceeding smoothly with trade predicted to reach US$200 billion by 2010.
China also signed free trade agreements with Chile and Pakistan to open new markets, and the mainland had signed arrangements for closer economic partnerships with Hong Kong and Macao.
"We should take this great opportunity to enter the global market," said Chen Jingwei, president of China Jingwei Group, a leading Chinese weaving manufacturer.
"Cooperation at higher level and in a wider range is now on schedule," Yi said, adding China and the other five member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) had agreed to expand cooperation into the economic field.
China was negotiating free trade zones with Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Iceland, considering greater economic cooperation with Japan, the Republic of Korea and India. "China is still at the initial stage of regional economic cooperation," said Yu Xiaosong, deputy director of the China Research Institute on World Trade Organization.
Yu stressed China should work out effective methods to help its 1.3 billion people see real benefits from regional economic development, despite the remarkable economic and trade growth.
(Xinhua News Agency December 8, 2006)