China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will become a single free trade zone next year.
China and ASEAN signed an investment agreement in Bangkok on Saturday that marks the final stage of a free trade agreement. They will scrap tariffs on around 7,000 items starting on Jan. 1, 2010, accounting for 90 percent of trade between the two sides, according to CCTV. They include agricultural products, manufactured goods and services.
Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming at the signing ceremony said the FTA "will cover a vast area of 13 million sq. km with a population of 1.9 billion." Thai Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai, who was the ASEAN representative, said the agreement "will contribute to the advancement of trade and investment" between the two sides.
China's Xinhua News Agency predicted bilateral trade, which stood at US$11.7 billion as of the end of 2008, will increase around 60 percent over the next two years. The investment agreement contains rules on investment protection, compensation for damage to investments in cases of civil unrest, easing of limitations on equity and land ownership, speedy resolutions to labor disputes and the guarantee of remittances of profits in its 27 clauses.