Trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grew 25% in the first half of this year, making it China's fourth largest trade partner, an official said Thursday. Trade volume between the two sides reached $59.76 billion in the first six months, according to Fu Ziying, assistant to the Minister of Commerce. Fu made the remarks at a press conference on preparations for the second China-ASEAN Expo to be held from October 19-22 in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi region.
China-ASEAN trade has increased by $50 billion since the two sides initiated steps towards a free trade zone in 2002, making ASEAN the fifth largest export market for China and the fourth largest source for imports. Bilateral trade registered an annual growth of 38.9% in the 2002-2004 period, reaching $105.9 billion in 2004.
President Hu Jintao set the goal for China-ASEAN trade to reach $200 billion by 2010 when he visited ASEAN countries in April. Due to deepening economic and trade cooperation between the two sides the pace of building the China-ASEAN free trade zone has been accelerated. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in August that China and ASEAN were on track to signing the free trade agreement by 2013. He said the initial common tariff reduction would be finished by 2006.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005