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China and ASEAN member states to upgrade a free trade agreement


SINGAPORE (TNO) A scheduled signing ceremony between China and ASEAN member states to upgrade a free trade agreement was called off on Saturday (Nov 21).“We have been working on the signing of the Upgrade Protocol of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA). I understand that a few key details have still to be worked out and we are not quite ready to sign it today,” said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the ASEAN-China Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday afternoon.

“I hope in the spirit of ASEAN-China cooperation, we will be able to get this done without delay.”The meeting was attended by leaders from the 10-member grouping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan had told Singapore media on Friday that ASEAN members and China had agreed to the upgrade, which will enhance opportunities for trade, investment and people-to-people engagement.The ASEAN-China Free Trade Area was signed in 2004 and was China’s first FTA.

At the meeting, Mr Lee also said ASEAN and China should work towards the full liberalisation of the ASEAN-China Air Transport Agreement, adding this will complement China’s initiative to develop a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”.But Mr Lee also noted that ASEAN-China relations extend beyond the economic sphere to cultural and political areas – with regular education and cultural exchanges, among others.He welcomed the Plan of Action that will guide overall ASEAN-China cooperation in a range of areas for the next five years, as well as China’s proposal to hold a Commemorative Summit next year to mark 25 years of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations and designate 2016 as the “Year of Educational Exchange”.




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