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China and ASEAN Trade Doubles, Reaches $400 Billion

The China-ASEAN Business Council has reported a record $400.9 billion in trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2012. This comes only 10 years after China signed an agreement with the Association–composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam–with the intent to eventually eliminate taxes on imports and exports between participating countries.

“In 2013, the main task in further boosting bilateral trade is to strengthen communication and complementarity,” said the Council’s report. “Duty-free policies do not automatically translate into common economic growth.”

China’s recent growth was the focus of the report, which called for further measures (read: even less taxes) to deepen the economic superpower’s relationship with ASEAN countries. As recently as 2008, China was only ASEAN’s third-largest trading partner, exchanging $192 billion in goods. By 2011, China had surpassed both Japan and the EU, and by 2012, had more than doubled their trade with ASEAN–reaching over $400 billion.

On the heels of this success, China and the ASEAN have announced plans to establish “the biggest free trade market in the world”–this time with Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Negotiations to solidify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, are expected to be completed in 2015.