China and Asean sign comprehensive trade deal
By Sonia K and Alex How in Cebu City

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday held successful dialogues with Asean members and their partners China, South Korea, Japan and India at the Shangri La Mactan Island Resort and Spa, Cebu, Philippines.

His Majesty attended the 10th Asean + China Summit followed by the signing ceremonies for the Trade in Services Agreement of the Asean-China Free Trade Area as well as the signing ceremony for the Plan of Action to Implement the Beijing declaration on Asean-ICT Cooperative Partnership for Common Development and the signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding by the Asean Secretariat and the Ministry of Agriculture of PROC on Agricultural Cooperation.

Meanwhile, His Majesty also attended the 10th Asean + Republic of Korea Summit at the Summit Complex. In the afternoon, the monarch attended the 5th Asean + India Summit, 10th Asean + Japan Summit and the 10th Asean + 3 (China, Japan and Korea) Summit held at the same venue.

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, signed the trade agreement for Brunei Darussaalam.

Expressing satisfaction on the Asean-China economic partnership and signing of the services agreement, His Majesty in a titah announced that Brunei was prepared to initiate a project involving the Asean-China Young Entrepreneurs and also launch an Asean-China Young Civil Servants Exchange Programme, RTB reported.

In this regard, His Majesty directed officials to work on the idea of setting up the centre and present recommendations by the next meeting.

In his titah, His Majesty also emphasised that effort must now focus on investment negotiations to facilitate greater investment flows from both sides and establish an Asean-China Free Trade Area which is comprehensive and beneficial for business people from both sides. His Majesty also hoped for China's active participation as a development partner in BIMP-EAGA to help facilitate regional integration efforts.

His Majesty also suggested both sides cooperate in energy in view of its importance for sustainable development and overall peace and prosperity.

During the Asean-Korea Summit, His Majesty expressed appreciation to Korea's contribution in information communications technology such as narrowing the digital divide in East Asia and the establishment of internet access centres in several Asean countries. Korea also had a lot to offer in sharing its experience and expertise and His Majesty hoped that Korea would continue to support Asean's efforts in particular the Brunei Action Plan on Enhancing ICT.

During the Asean-India Summit, His Majesty acknowledged there were many opportunities for both sides to cooperate on the proposals agreed to in the Plan of Action.

His Majesty commended Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the successful outcome of the technology summit and technology platform in India last November. Such events had done a lot to improve networking and interactions among the people from both sides as well as providing an excellent opportunity for Asean to learn from India's tremendous expertise in ICT and science and technology.

Leaders of Asean and China yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to forge closer trade and investment cooperation that will promote economic stability in East Asia.

The Agreement on Trade in Services of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between Asean and China was signed yesterday in a common desire to deepen economic linkages, minimise trade barriers, increase intra-regional trade and investment, and create a larger market with greater opportunities.

The first signing which was the Trade in Services Agreement of the Asean-China Free Trade Area was signed by HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah together with the other nine members of Asean including Peter B. Favila, Secretary of Trade and Industry of Philippines. Representing China was Mr Li Zhaoxing, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

A copy of the signed document from Peter B. Favila was then handed over to Ong Keng Yong, Secretary General of Asean.

The second signing ceremony for the Plan of Action to implement the Beijing Declaration on Asean-ICT Cooperation Partnership for Common Development was signed by Li Zhaoxing and Ong KengYong.

The third signing ceremony was for the Memorandum of Understanding between the Asean Secretariat and the Ministry of Agriculture of China on Agricultural Cooperation.

The leaders expressed confidence that the establishment of an Asean-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will create a strong partnership between Asean member countries and China and provide a vital mechanism that will strengthen cooperation and support economic development in East Asia.

The leaders recognised the different stages of economic development among Asean member countries and the need for flexibility, in particular the need to facilitate the increasing participation of the newer Asean member states in the Asean-China economic cooperation and the expansion of their exports through the strengthening of their domestic capacity, efficiency and competitiveness.

As agreed upon, the increasing participation of Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Vietnam shall be facilitated through negotiated specific commitments, strengthening their domestic services capacity, and improving the market access for their exports.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to abide by the provisions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Specific commitments on market access and national treatment have also been agreed upon as provided for in Articles 18 and 19 of the Agreement, which will take effect on July 1 this year.

The Asean economic ministers and the Minister at the Ministry of Commerce in China and their designated representatives will meet within a year from the date of entry into force of the agreement and then biennially, or otherwise, to review the agreement for the purpose of considering further measures to liberalise trade in services. (15th January 2007)