Oct. 21 – China’s trade with ASEAN as increased by nearly 50 percent since a free trade agreement between the two came into effect on January 1 of this year.
Trade between ASEAN and China reached US$185.4 billion from January to August. ASEAN member countries were the main beneficiary as their exports to China grew by 54.2 percent. The FTA helped lower the costs for Chinese manufacturers and retailers, while lower tariffs compensated for raising wages and production costs.
If combined, ASEAN, whose member countries include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam would be the ninth largest nation in the world with a population of 580 million and a GDP of US$1.5 trillion.
Not all ASEAN member countries are currently fully integrated into the FTA to give them time to adapt. Consequently, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will further add to these trade figures when they implement the ASEAN FTA in 2015. At that point, 90 percent of all China-ASEAN tariffs will be abolished.
Additional trade benefits can also be expected when China completes a similar FTA with South Korea and Japan, expected to be completed in 2012. Shipping lines are being affected, with standard 2,700 TEU capacity ships trading between ASEAN members, China, Japan and South Korea in the process of being upgraded to 4,500 TEU capacity vessels. ASEAN also has an FTA with India which is expected to provide similar benefits to the ASEAN and Indian markets.