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Montevideo, May 19th 2024 - 21:21 UTC



China leads regional trade giant.

Tuesday, November 30th 2004 - 20:00 UTC
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South East Asian countries and China signed this Monday in Laos a landmark trade agreement that could eventually become the greatest free trade area involving a quarter of the world's population.

The combined ten Asian countries and China hold 1,8 billion people and a GDP equivalent to two trillion US dollars.

The signing ceremony was presided by Laos' president and Chinese Prime Ministr Wen Jiabao. Asian country members are, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Asian countries are China's fifth trade partner, equivalent to 11% of its foreign trade, and during the first ten months of 2004 expanded at an annual 35% rate.

The agreement commits members to lower tariffs on goods they already trade by 2010, but excludes thousands of "sensitive goods" such as sugar, iron, automobiles and steel and doesn't include services or non tariff barriers.

Besides four of the poorest Asian countries, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma, have until 2015 to fully comply.

On the political side, for Beijing it means an advance in an area traditionally under US influence.

A second greater regional structure with Japan and South Korea, possibly rivaling the US and EU, is also in the drawing plans with its first summit in Malaysia next year.

Categories: Mercosur.

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