Beijing: A free trade agreement between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours, which takes full effect from 1 January, will help China fill its urgent need for natural resources, a senior commerce official said on Tuesday.
The pact with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) will help China feed its humming manufacturing sector with resources from those countries, Zhang Kening, a director from the ministry of commerce, told a news conference.
The agreement will form an economic bloc of 1.9 billion people, with trade worth around $200 billion. Asean is China’s fourth biggest trade partner, accounting for about 10% of China’s total trade.
“China and Asean countries have many products that complement each other,” Zhang said.
“With the establishment of the free trade area, we can see great potential to adjust our trade patterns by importing more from Asean countries.”
China signed an initial free trade agreement with the 10 members of Asean in November 2002, and both sides have been phasing in tariff reductions.
Indonesia last month sought to delay final implementation of the pact after some industries, including the steel and petrochemical sectors, raised concerns they would face a flood of Chinese imports.
“That is only talk from some industrial sectors but does not represent the Indonesian government’s view,” Zhang said.
Competition with other regional manufacturers could be a sticking point if China seeks, as promised, to expand its free trade networks to include Japan and South Korea. It is already in negotiations with Taiwan.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce is in the final phase of studying a free trade area pact with South Korea, but has not yet started official negotiations, Zhang said.