Thailand's deputy prime minister and trade minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, left, shakes hands with China's premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, Oct. 25. (Photo/Xinhua)
China's premier, Li Keqiang, on Friday underlined the country's commitment to upgrading free trade area with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In a meeting with ASEAN trade ministers' delegation in Beijing, Li said great potential exists in trade, investment and people-to-people cooperation between China and ASEAN. Li said the delegation's trade and investment promotion activities in China will help implement the China-ASEAN cooperation framework over the next decade.
The premier said that China supports ASEAN's leading role in East Asia cooperation and regional integration, and pledged the country's willingness to build strategic trust with neighboring ASEAN countries, deepen all-round cooperation, upgrade the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) and bring more benefits to people in the region.
China is the largest trading partner of ASEAN, and ASEAN is the third-largest trading partner of China.
The CAFTA is the largest free trade area in the world in terms of population and third largest in terms of nominal GDP. Under the free trade agreement, tariffs will be reduced to zero on almost 8,000 product categories, 90% of imported goods.
Knowing trade ministers travelled by high-speed train from south China to Beijing, Li thanked them for staging a roadshow for Chinese high-speed train. Li called for ASEAN businesses to invest in China and encouraged Chinese companies to invest in ASEAN railways and other infrastructure projects, adding that China-ASEAN transportation links will drive trade development.
Thailand's deputy prime minister and trade minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, on behalf of the delegation, said that ASEAN countries welcome China's proposal for an upgraded CAFTA and would like to work more closely with Beijing on infrastructure cooperation and pave the way for future East Asian cooperation.