China-ASEAN Free Trade Area sets example for mutual beneficial,win-win regional co-op
2010/01/01

BEIJING, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Amid the chime to ring in the New Year, the start of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area came as a milestone in the annals of China-ASEAN relations, and it may well serve as a model for regional cooperation not only in Asia, but in other parts of the world.

The new free trade area has brought together developing countries in the region with a combined population of 1.9 billion, a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of up to 6 trillion U.S. dollars and total trade volume of 4.5 trillion dollars.

The idea of forming such a free trade bloc dated back to the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s. At the third China-ASEAN Summit in Manila in 1999 then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji reiterated China's readiness to enhance its ties with ASEAN free trade district. His proposal got positive response from leaders of ASEAN nations.

In the ensuing decade, both sides managed to reach a number of agreements that aimed to set up a China-ASEAN free trade area, and made substantial progress for its establishment.

Today, the free trade area is of greater significance amid the ongoing global financial crisis and rising trade protectionism when developing countries are more vulnerable because of their fragile economies. Under the circumstance, China-ASEAN free trade area will undoubtedly enhance the capacity of the regional economies to tackle the crisis.

Moreover, China and ASEAN nations enjoy geographic advantage in their economic cooperation, and their economies are highly complementary to each other. The free trade area will push forward regional economic cooperation.

In a recent interview ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said the free trade area will benefit both sides and help lift world economy out of the crisis. It will also help enhance cultural exchanges and integration in the region and the mutual understanding between China and ASEAN nations.

Cooperation between China and ASEAN nations covers economic, political, cultural, environmental, security and many other spheres, and the free trade area will offer further impetus to their comprehensive cooperation, he added.

As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at the fourth East Asia Summit in Thailand last October, East Asia is one of the most dynamic and promising regions in the world, and never have the nations in the region been so closely bound by common fate and shared weal and woe.

Closer regional cooperation is the general trend in an age of economic globalization, and the surest way to build up risk resistance capacity. We are confident that China-ASEAN Free Trade Area will serve as a driving force for regional economic cooperation, an arena for cultural exchange and a new starting point for enhancing China-ASEAN ties.

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