ASEAN-China agency to raise FTA awareness

CHINA – The ASEAN-China Center aims to help China and members of the Southeast Asian bloc extract more benefit from the regional free trade agreement, the center’s Secretary-General Ma Mingqiang told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

The inter-governmental organization will provide lectures by economic experts about the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, which by 2015 will include China and all 10 ASEAN member countries, beginning in May in China, Ma said.

“We will tell businesspeople directly what the ACFTA is and how they can use it reduce their costs and strengthen their companies,” said Ma.

However, many people in China and ASEAN member countries are not aware of the ACFTA.

For instance, the city of Yiwu in Zhejiang province is renowned as a shopping paradise for small commodities, which have a big market in Southeast Asian countries.

But many Yiwu businesspeople are not familiar with the ACFTA and sometimes end up paying higher tariffs when exporting to ASEAN countries.

Similarly, companies in Indonesia, famous for its raw rubber, often sell the natural resource to countries that have higher tariffs.

The population is not aware of the advantages of the ACFTA, said Ma, adding that the center “will go directly to enterprises at the basic level”.

The initial framework agreement of the ACFTA was signed on Nov 4, 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which is the chair country of ASEAN this year and will host the 20th ASEAN Summit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The ACFTA, which currently includes China and the six original members of ASEAN – Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, came into effect on Jan 1, 2010, making it the largest free-trade area in terms of population and the third-largest by nominal GDP at a combined value of US$6 trillion (S$7.5 trillion) in 2008.

The remaining four countries will follow suit in 2015.

According to the ACFTA, tariffs have been eliminated for about 7,880 product categories, or 90 per cent of the imported goods.

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The good sunny spring days have really boomed the sales of spring products and various summer products also enter the pre-warming sales. New arrivals of various brands have been gradually launched to the market and accounted a big part of the sales.

As a shop keeper of towels in District 4, Yiwu International Trade Mart, Ms. Mao told, though the weather this spring is a little chilly, she had already put on the new products of spring and summer designs in her shop and the market feedbacks seem positive.

As the market monitor department told, spring shoes, like women’s cowhide shoes and coated leather shoes, and men’s casual shoes, etc. have been sold well both in wholesale and retail. Cartoon leather children’s shoes are well-received in Japan, Korea and the Middle East.

In handbag wholesale market, spring styles are prevailing. Fashion factors, like tassel and bright spring colors have been added in the designing of spring handbags. Sports bags and traveling bags, high and medium graded handbags as well, increased dramatically in export. As the cost of raw materials rises, spring and summer handbags also have a small rise at price.