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China and ASEAN Conclude Deal to Upgrade Bilateral FTA

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed a deal Sunday to upgrade their free trade area and foster greater regional economic cooperation.

Talk of the upgrade got underway in August last year and after four rounds of negotiations, China’s prime minister Li Keqiang and leaders from the 10-nation ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) concluded the agreement.

The upgrade, according to China’s Xinhua, will cover goods, services, investment and economic and technological cooperation.

“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,” Xinhua noted.

Facilitating trade and investment, opening the services market further and generally lifting cooperation in the region are chief among the aims for the upgrade.

The ASEAN nations, which are seeking greater regional integration, stand to benefit from China’s abundant capital and technological strength. Both sides have compatible notions of cooperation and complementary economic advantages, Xinhua reported Chinese commerce minister Gao Hucheng as saying.

Since it took effect in 2010, the FTA between China and ASEAN has increased bilateral trade between the parties nearly nine times to $480.4 billion in 2014.