China and ASEAN to build free trade area

China and &to=http:// ' target=_blank>ASEAN started their process for building a free trade area with the signing of the "Agreement on Trading in Goods of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and China."

Witnessed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and leaders of the 10-member ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Chinese Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai signed the agreement with 10 economic ministers of the ASEAN countries.

According to the agreement, starting from July 1, 2005, China and ASEAN countries will start their tariff-reducing process. The two sides will gradually reduce or cancel tariff on 7,000 kinds ofproducts, reports Xinhua News.

According to the USA Today, some analysts believe the agreement shows how an increasingly bold China is forging new alliances that would reduce, and possibly eventually challenge, America's influence in Asia.

"China is using its huge market as a bait to lure ASEAN countries away from U.S. and &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Japan and build closer relations," said Chao Chien-min, a China watcher and political science professor at Taiwan's National Chengchi University.

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