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ASEAN confident of concluding FTAs with partners by 2013
By Channel NewsAsia Philippines Correspondent, Christine Ong | Posted: 27 August 2007 0018 hrs

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MANILA: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is planning to sign six free trade agreements by 2013.

This will be an important step for the regional body's plan to integrate its economy by 2015, said its secretary-general, Mr Ong Keng Yong.

The announcement was made on the final day of the 39th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in Manila.

ASEAN is separately negotiating free trade deals with its East Asian neighbours � China, Japan and South Korea � along with Australia, India and New Zealand.

ASEAN has also started exchanging views with the European Union and a joint study on a possible free trade agreement with Pakistan is also in the works.

Mr Ong said: "We hope to conclude the establishment of the FTA between ASEAN and China by 2010. For Japan, we hope to have it ready by 2012 and for Australia and New Zealand, we hope to have it before 2012. With India, we hope to do it by 2011 and with Korea, it should be 2008.

"Essentially, by 2013, all these free trade agreements between ASEAN and the rest of our major trading partners will be completed and the FTAs should be in place. This will tie in with our leaders' decision to have the ASEAN economic community established by 2015."

Explaining the timeline, Mr Ong said the simultaneous negotiations with the dialogue partners have over-stretched resources and personnel.

To facilitate the implementation of the current agreements, ASEAN is even considering a temporary moratorium on new free trade talks with other countries.

"What we believe we should do is to complete what we have on our table as soon as possible, and once we finish any one of these, we will have more time and capacity for other FTAs," said Mr Ong.

In his talks with his ASEAN counterparts, Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said both sides have agreed to assist each other in strengthening product safety.

ASEAN and China also hope to establish common standards and technical requirements for equal treatment of products.

- CNA/so



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