Kuala Lumpur, November 22 (Xinhua)-On November 22, jointly witnessed by Premier Li Keqiang and the leaders of ten ASEAN countries, the Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng and the Minister of ten ASEAN countries respectively represented the Chinese government and the government of ten ASEAN countries and officially signed the outcome document of the China-ASEAN FTA upgrading negotiations-Protocol on Revising the China-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and Some Agreements under this Agreement by the People’s Republic of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (hereinafter referred to as the Protocol) in the capital of Malaysia Kuala Lumpur. After the signing ceremony, Minister Gao Hucheng accepted the interview of the Xinhua News Agency.

Gao said that Premier Li Keqiang has done a great job on completing the China-ASEAN FTA upgrading negotiations in a broad and profound way and promoted the final accomplishment of the Protocol during this conference. China-ASEAN FTA is the first free trade agreement of China’s foreign negotiations and the biggest free trade area. The CAFTA was fully completed in 2010, vigorously promoting the stable and rapid development of the bilateral trade and economic relationship in a long term. The CAFTA becomes a favorable example for developing countries to offer mutual benefit and achieve common progress and realize win-win cooperation. In 2002, when the CAFTA was just started, the bilateral trade volume was uS$54.8 billion. By 2014, the bilateral trade volume rose up to US$480.4 billion, increasing 9 times during the 12 years with an annual growth of 20%. The two-way investment increased from US$3.37 billion in 2003 to US$12.2 billion in 2014, growing almost 4 times. At present, China is the ASEAN’s largest trading partner and the ASEAN is China’s third largest trading partner. The mutual investment of both sides accumulates to more than US$150 billion.

Gao Hucheng introduced that the upgraded Protocol of the CAFTA is the first completed upgraded agreement based on the existing free trade areas. In October 2013, Premier Li Keqiang considered the situation and constructively proposed to launch the China-ASEAN FTA upgrading negotiations at the China-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting according to the practical needs of the development of the trade and economic cooperation of both sides. This initiative received a strong response from the leaders of the ASEAN. In August 2014, the upgrading negation was officially started. Then rapid progress was achieved since the positive and practical upgrading negotiation met the reality of the two sides with strong goals. After four rounds of negotiations, many consensuses have been reached. Finally, the upgrading Protocol was signed in this meeting.

Gao said that the upgrading Protocol of CAFTA covers the fields such as trade in goods, service trade, investment and economic and technical cooperation, enriching, perfecting, replenishing and improving all kinds of the original agreements of CAFTA. It embodies the common wishes of both sides to deepen and expand the trade and economic cooperation. The liberalization level of trade in goods of the existing China-ASEAN FTA is very high. Almost 95% of the products of both sides have realized zero tariffs. Therefore, in the upgrading negotiations, both sides emphasized strengthening the facilitation of the trade in goods and the investment to further open the service market and improve the economic and technical cooperative level. Specifically, in terms of the trade in goods, both sides optimized and improved the rule of origin, further simplified the customs clearance procedure, promised to provide enterprises of both sides with high-efficient and rapid clearance service by adopting measures such as automatic system and risk management and improved the efficiency of enterprises to take advantage of the preferential policies of the free trade area. With regard to service trade, both sides completed the specific concession negotiation of the third batch of service trade and made more high-level and open commitment in almost 70 departments such as construction, tourism, finance and telecommunication. For investment, both sides agreed to strengthen the investment promotion and the facilitation cooperation, to simplify the investment approval procedure, to build the one-stop investment center and to create a stable, transparent and convenient investment environment. As for the economic and technical cooperation, both sides agreed to deepen the cooperation in more than 10 fields such as agriculture, information and transportation and to incorporate the cross-border e-commerce into the cooperation as a new issue, which further expanded the upgraded field of the free trade area negotiation.

Gao said that China has strong financial and technical capacities; while ASEAN is accelerating the integration process with strong requirements for the industrial development and infrastructure construction. Both sides have consistent cooperative concept, economic complementarities and huge cooperative potential. In the series of East Asia Summit Meetings this year, the ASEAN announced to build the ASEAN community by the end of this year. The successful signing of the upgrading Protocol of the CAFTA is at exactly the right time and will vigorously promote the trade and economic cooperation of both sides to a new level. It will provide new assistance to the economic development of both sides, accelerate building a closer China-ASEAN destiny community and push forward both sides to realize the goal of US$1-trillion bilateral trade volume in 2020. At the same time, against the background that the Asia-Pacific regions’ free trade areas enjoy rapid development, the signing of the upgrading Protocol will further accelerate the regional economic integration step of this region and promote to realize the goal of a higher-level liberalization and facilitation of the trade investment of Asia-Pacific region.

Approved by:MINISTRY OF COMMERCE,PRC     Supported by:China International Electronic Commerce Center