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China, ASEAN to upgrade FTA, solve disputes

2013-08-30 10:10 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Thursday agreed to upgrade their free trade area (FTA) and to solve territorial disputes.

"We agreed to accelerate regional economic integration, further open markets to each other, and advance trade and investment liberalization to upgrade our free trade area," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced at a press briefing, after a special meeting with his counterparts of ASEAN members and ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh in Beijing.

The FTA, established in January 2010, is the biggest among emerging economies. China-ASEAN trade volume topped 400 billion U.S. dollars last year, six times more than that a decade ago.

The development of China-ASEAN relations brought great regional stability and prosperity, said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in a meeting with the ASEAN foreign ministers.

Wang Yi proposed four regional systems, namely, a free trade system with regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) at the core, an Asian currency stability system based on 10+3 financial cooperation, an investment and financing cooperation system and an Asian credit rating system based on the Asian bond market.

He called on all sides to cope well with the relationship between RCEP and the trans-Pacific partnership(TPP) and make all free trade arrangements to complement each other.

"China and ASEAN will endeavor to build a more comprehensive FTA to better benefit the companies and peoples, which will also inject new vitality to the regional free trade system building," Wang said.

In the three-hour meeting, the foreign ministers agreed to make construction plans for connectivity between China and ASEAN and identify major collaborative projects as soon as possible to achieve interconnection of sea, land and air networks.

In this regard, they agreed to consider setting up a platform of investment and financing to provide financial support for connectivity projects.

They agreed to make better use of the China-ASEAN maritime cooperation fund.

"China always hopes to share with neighboring countries its fast development and shows great sincerity in this regard. The development of China-ASEAN cooperation will also push forward domestic cooperation among ASEAN members, as well as the cooperation between ASEAN and other countries," said Ruan Zongze, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies.

Ruan said China's hosting of the special meeting showcased sincerity to strengthen the strategic partnership.

Former Chinese ambassador to Thailand, Singapore and Nepal Zhang Jiuhuan told Xinhua that upgrading the China-ASEAN free trade zone is the objective but is multifaceted, notably in terms of political trust.

The meeting also discussed disputes between China and some ASEAN members over the South China Sea and reaffirmed that an appropriate solution would be reached through consultation and China-ASEAN cooperation.

The two sides decided to hold the 6th China-ASEAN Senior Officials' Meeting and the 9th Joint Working Group Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) from Sept. 14 to 15 in Suzhou, an industrial hub in east China's Jiangsu province.

The meeting will explore the implementation of the DOC in a comprehensive and effective way, discuss maritime pragmatic cooperation among China and ASEAN members and arrange consultation on the code of conduct in the South China Sea under the framework of thorough implementation of the DOC.

"There will be no development without peace. The fast growth of regional economic integration is due to peace and stability in the region. We should cherish the regional peace," Wang said.

He noted the two sides should take the general situation into consideration, strengthen consultation and coordination, enhance mutual understanding and trust, properly handle the disputes through friendly consultation, so as to create a peaceful and stable environment for regional development and prosperity.

Premier Li said China steadily pursues the way of peaceful development, takes the relationship with ASEAN as a priority in its regional diplomacy, and pursues the a good-neighborly policy.

Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and Bruneian Foreign Minister Mohamed Bolkiah, on behalf of the foreign ministers, echoed Li saying ASEAN will work with China to properly handle the disputes.

"ASEAN has realized that the South China Sea issue is a problem only between China and some members, and should not affect its overall relationship with China. We should prevent the disputes from obstructing the good momentum of cooperation between the two sides," Ruan said.

In the meeting, the foreign ministers also agreed to further conduct exchanges and dialogues on security and defense, promote to establish a new regional security concept featuring common security and cooperation. They agreed to strengthen non-traditional security cooperation such as disaster prevention and relief and fight transnational crimes.

They agreed to strengthen coordination and actively participate in the international and regional affairs, and jointly maintain the just interests of developing countries.

Focusing on "the deepening of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership", the special meeting was held to mark the 10th anniversary of the formation of China-ASEAN strategic partnership.

After the meeting, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met with the foreign ministers and held a banquet for them.

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