China’s official proposes immediate start of E Asia FTA talks

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2011-03-01 Xinhua

China’s Official Proposes Immediate Start of E. Asia FTA Talks

East Asia should wait no longer for the opening of dialogues over the establishment of a free trade area (FTA) that will help facilitate the global economic recovery, a Chinese commerce official said here on Tuesday.

Yu Jianhua, assistant commerce minister, said that the conditions for the set-up of an FTA in East Asia had been fairly good, as the mutual cooperation and dependence in trade among the Association of the South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) had been increasingly integrated.

More than half of the total trade of East Asia had been carried out within the region, he said at an international seminar opened here in east China’s Anhui Province.

Trade and economic experts from other East Asian states joined Yu in echoing support for the East Asia FTA talks, but admitted that huge challenges lie ahead.

Naomi Chakwin, an official with Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), said overlapping of the existing FTAs, disparity in customs rules and the definition of sensitive products, and other complicated issues, are the main obstacles to inking a sweeping region-wide FTA.

China, Japan and the Republic of Korea have each signed a free trade agreement with the ASEAN so far. Last year, a study on the China-Japan-ROK FTA was kicked off and expected to be completed by 2012.

Chang Jae Lee, a Korean economist, said that the China-Japan-ROK FTA is instrumental in deepening talks on the East Asia FTA.

After the conclusion of the joint studies over the China-ROK FTA in 2010, four ASEAN work teams had already begun research over the East Asia FTA and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia.

"The ongoing economic integration has provided a rare opportunity for the establishment of the East Asia FTA, and relevant talks should be started no later than 2012," said Yu.

Citing the estimates jointly made by experts from the ASEAN, China, Japan and ROK, Yu said that the East Asia FTA would raise the overall annual gross domestic product of the ASEAN by 3.6 percent from 2010 to 2020, while China, Japan and ROK would see their annual GDP jump by 0.9 percent, on average, during the same period.

To start such dialogues, however, participants to the four-day International Seminar on Trade Facilitation for ASEAN, China, Japan and ROK said that the first step should be to streamline existing trade agreements within the region to avoid overlapping and to meet pressing needs.

The ASEAN Trade Negotiating Committee will open a three-day meeting on Wednesday.

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source: Xinhua