1. The Seventh Consultations between the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and the Minister of Commerce (MOFCOM) of the People’s Republic of China (7th AEM-MOFCOM Consultations) was held in Singapore on 27 August 2008.   The Consultations was co-chaired by H.E. Mr. Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore, and H.E. Chen Jian, Vice Minister of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China.

2. The Ministers discussed global and regional issues particularly those relating to the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and China, including the review of the Trade in Goods Agreement, the negotiations on the ASEAN-China Investment Agreement and other on-going cooperation projects between ASEAN and China.

3. The Ministers noted, according to ASEAN statistics, the tripling of trade value between the ASEAN and China from USD 59.6 billion in 2003 to USD 171.1 billion in 2007.  ASEAN-China total trade has been growing at an annual rate of 30 percent from 2003 to 2007. The average growth in exports is 28 percent with imports at 32 percent during the same period. Cumulative Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows from China into ASEAN from 2003 to 2007 amounted to USD 3.6 billion.

ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA)

4. The Ministers welcomed the substantive progress made in the negotiations on the ASEAN-China Investment Agreement and underscored the importance of concluding the Agreement by the 12th ASEAN-China Summit in December 2008.  The Investment Agreement is one of the three (3) components of the ACFTA as provided under the ASEAN-China Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation. The other two (2) are the Trade in Goods Agreement and the Trade in Services Agreements which were concluded in 2004 and 2006, respectively. The conclusion of negotiations on the Investment Agreement will therefore complete the mandate set forth in the Framework Agreement that was signed in 2003.

5. The Ministers discussed the review of the ASEAN-China Trade in Goods (TIG) agreement and were pleased with the outcome of the FTA from the implementation of the Early Harvest Programme and the TIG Agreement.  The Ministers were confident that the ASEAN-China FTA remains a regional trading arrangement of some global significance given the magnitude of trade between the parties, which accounted for 13.7 percent of global trade or almost half of Asia’s total trade in 2007.  The review reaffirmed the strong trade ties between the parties and the prospects for enhanced trade flows in the coming years as more tranches of tariff reductions come on-stream.

6. Work on amendments to the Operational Certification Procedures of the rules of origin is on-going with the aim of providing more facilitative market access to the business communities of both ASEAN and China.  The Ministers called for the expeditious transition to the next phase of text-based negotiations as technical clarifications have been completed.

7. The Ministers welcomed the exchange of initial offers under the Second Package of Services Commitments and the bilateral negotiations that have been undertaken.  Initial offers from the parties are wide-ranging and include offers in the transport, telecommunications, finance, business services and professional services sectors.  Parties will also be submitting revised offers in the next phase with the aim of ensuring substantive commitments under the Second Package.  Parties remain committed to putting these commitments into effect by way of a Protocol as soon as possible.

8. The ACFTA places high priority on implementing economic cooperation projects between the parties. The Ministers welcomed the workshop on trade facilitation that will be held later this year and a seminar on services regimes of parties that is being planned for 2009. ASEAN and China will be considering more projects that are practical and relevant to further the aims of the ACFTA and to ensure that the benefits of the ACFTA are better disseminated and utilised.

Other Activities

9. The Ministers were pleased to note the progress made in finalising the Memorandum of Understanding between ASEAN and China on Cooperation on Intellectual Property and the Memorandum of Understanding between ASEAN and China on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).  The Ministers looked forward to the signing of these MOUs at the sidelines of the ASEAN-China Summit in Thailand in December 2008. The Ministers also welcomed the development of a Joint Action Plan on Standards and Conformity Assessment to support the activities under the MOU on TBT.

10. The Ministers exchanged views on China’s proposal to develop the Pan Beibu Gulf (PBG) Rim region and to conduct of a feasibility study on PBG economic cooperation.  The Ministers noted that the Inaugural Meeting of the ad-hoc Joint Expert Group (JEG) on PBG was held in Beihai, China on 30 July 2008.  The PBG is an open cooperation to speed up the sustainable economic and social development of the region.  The Ministers welcomed this initiative and agreed to study the proposal in detail.

11. The Ministers noted that, following the interest from both sides in providing contractors from ASEAN and China the necessary platform to enhance cooperation and networking, there is a proposal for an ASEAN-China Contractors Federation as well as the possibility of holding a Contractors Economic Forum that could be held during 5th ASEAN-China Expo (5th CAEXPO) in Nanning, China in October 2008 or at the sidelines of the 28th ASEAN Contractors Federation Council Meeting scheduled in Jakarta in November/December 2008.  The Ministers expressed hope that the relevant associations from both sides will decide on the activities that could best enable improvement of networking and enhancement of business cooperation between the parties.

12. The annual ASEAN-China EXPO will be held in Nanning, China from on 22-25 October 2008.  An “ICT Week” to be held in conjunction with the CAEXPO will feature relevant Ministerial discussions, ICT Business Forums and a Wireless Technology Forum.  The 5th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) will be held in conjunction with this event.  The Summit will showcase the progress of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) with the theme of “Broader Vision, Common Action”.  Forums on SME cooperation and investment cooperation will be conducted during the 5th CABIS.  The Ministers encouraged the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities presented by CAEXPO to further enhance ASEAN-China trade and investment.

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LIST OF DELEGATES

  1. Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Brunei Darussalam.
  2. Mr. Pich Rithi, Director General, Directorate General for Domestic Trade Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia.
  3. H.E. Chen Jian, Vice Minister of Commerce, the People’s Republic of China.
  4. Mr. Gusmardi Bustami, Director General of International Trade Cooperation, Ministry of Trade, Indonesia.
  5. Mr. Bounsom Phommavihane, Director General, Foreign Trade Policy Department Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Lao PDR.
  6. Datuk Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Deputy Secretary General (Trade), Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia.
  7. Daw Myo Nwe, Director General, Ministry for National Planning and Economic Development, Myanmar
  8. Mr. Efren V. Leano, Executive Director, Board of Investments, the Philippines.
  9. H.E. Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore
  10. Ms. Chutima Bunyapraphasara, Director General, Department of Trade Negotiations, Minister of Commerce, Thailand.
  11. Mr. Bui Huy Son, Deputy Director General, Multilateral Trade Policy Department, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Viet Nam
  12. H.E. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN