ASEAN and China are reported to have made substantial progress in the 5th round of the ASEAN-China free trade agreement (ACFTA) upgrade negotiations held between January 29th and February 2nd n Hangzhou in China’s Zhejiang province.
Ratchawit Piyapramote, deputy director-general of Thailand’s International Trade Negotiations Department and chair of the ASEAN team, said that the two sides tried to make as much progress in the talks as possible. The negotiations are expected to be concluded this year, as required by the economic ministers of the two parties.
He said that the two sides managed to reach conclusions on small and medium-sized enterprises, trade competition, consumer protection, technical regulations, goods standardisation and inspection and certification processes.
He expects all the other aspects, such as trade in digital economy goods, investment, customs protocols, the green economy and trade facilities, to be concluded in the next round of talks in April in Singapore.
Since the Hangzhou talks were the first of this year, Ratchawit said that both sides are required to set the guidelines and tangible targets for subsequent rounds of talks, so that they will be able to conclude the agreement this year.
China is ASEAN’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade last year estimated at US$104.9 billion. Thailand’s exports to China alone were worth about US$34.1 billion, against imports of Chinese goods worth US$70.8 billion.
Thai exports to China include fresh fruit, rubber products, plastic pellets, tapioca products, computers, accessories and parts. Main Chinese imports include electrical machinery and parts, chemicals, machinery and parts, home electrical appliances, steel, computers and computer accessories.