China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sealed a deal on Sunday to upgrade their free trade area (FTA), injecting fresh impetus into regional economic cooperation.[Special coverage]
A protocol that pronounces the full conclusion of China-ASEAN negotiations on upgrading their FTA was signed at a ceremony in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center in the presence of visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and leaders of the 10-member ASEAN.
The upgrade of the FTA, China's first with foreign trading partners, was nailed down after only four rounds of talks that officially started in August 2014, in a sign of the common aspiration and practical need of both sides to deepen and expand cooperation in trade and economy.
Covering a wide range of areas including goods, services, investment, and economic and technological cooperation, the upgrade will provide fresh momentum for economic development of both China and ASEAN.
Conducive to fostering a closer China-ASEAN community of common destiny, the move is also to help realize the target of scaling up two-way trade to 1 trillion U.S. dollars by 2020 and promote the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.
In their negotiations, China and ASEAN attached great significance to the facilitation of trade in goods and investment, further opening up the services market and lifting the level of economic and technological cooperation, Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng told reporters after the signing ceremony.
China enjoys abundant capital and strong technological strength, while ASEAN aspires for accelerated regional integration and has great needs for industrial development and infrastructure, Gao said.
Therefore, the two sides have compatible concepts of cooperation, complementary economic advantages, and great potential in bilateral collaboration, he added.
Taking effect in 2010, the China-ASEAN FTA has made China the bloc's biggest trading partner and ASEAN the third largest trading partner of the world's second largest economy.
Thanks to the FTA, China-ASEAN economic and trade relations have enjoyed heathy and stable development. Bilateral trade surged nearly nine times from 54.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2002 to 480.4 billion in 2014, according to the minister.
Established in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.