ASEAN and China agreed to negotiate on upgrading the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) Tuesday to ensure that the ACFTA remained dynamic and commercially relevant, said a joint statement of the 13th AEM-MOFCOM Consultations.
The Consultations held in Nay Pyi Taw as part of the series of related meetings of the 46th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) .
The ministers noted that the agreement to upgrade the ACFTA was a testament to the strong positive relationships between ASEAN and China and deepened the economic cooperation of both sides in a mutually beneficial manner.
The ministers also urged to expedite the conclusion of the Custom Procedures and Trade Facilitation (CPTF) negotiation and the review of the Sensitive Track and Rules of Origin and to report progress made to the next AEM-MOFCOM consultations.
The ministers exchanged view on how to further promote China- ASEAN Connectivity cooperation in the future, according to the statement.
China maintained its position as ASEAN's largest trading partner. According to the joint statement, ASEAN's total trade with China reached 350.5 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 14 percent of ASEAN's total trade and representing an increase of 7.7 percent year on year by the end of 2013.
In 2013, ASEAN received 8.6 billion U.S. dollars' foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow from China, a significant 60.8 percent increase year on year and taking up 7.1 percent of total inflow to ASEAN.
The ministers reaffirmed ASEAN's and China's commitment to achieving the joint trade volume target to 500 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2015.
The ministers welcome China's initiatives to establish an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to provide financial support to regional infrastructure projects with priority on ASEAN connectivity.
The AEM-MOFCOM consultations were co-chaired by Dr. Kan Zaw, Myanmar Minister of National Planning and Economic Development and Gao Hucheng, Minister of Commerce of China.
Gao highlighted in his speech that the year 2014 is the opening year of the second decade of the establishment of China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. Along with the speeding up of the ACFTA building process, China and ASEAN have made rich achievements in economic and trade cooperation, becoming a bright spot of the overall China-ASEAN relations.
Gao made a four-point proposals at the consultations to expand China's cooperation with the ASEAN on mutually beneficial basis. The proposals include jointly building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, further raising the facilitation level of bilateral trade and investment, expedition of infrastructural construction of connectivity and enhancing cooperation in regional economic integration.
ACFTA, established in January 1, 2010, covers a population of 1. 8 billion approaching a gross domestic product of 6 trillion U.S. dollars with trade reaching 4.5 trillion U.S. dollars and represents the biggest FTA made up of developing countries in the world.
Myanmar is rotating chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.