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China, Singapore Sign Free Trade Pact
    2008-10-23 11:41:43     Xinhua

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong make a toast after the signing of a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in Beijing on Thursday, October 23, 2008. [Photo: Xinhua]

China and Singapore on Thursday signed a free trade agreement (FTA) ahead of the seventh Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on Oct. 24 and 25.

All Chinese goods exported to Singapore will be tariff free from next year, according to the agreement.

Tariffs on 87.5 percent of Singapore exports to China would be exempted from the same date, and the percentage would increase to 97.1 percent from 2012, it added.

In the education and medical services sectors, the two nations will give each other wider market access than stipulated in the World Trade Organization and China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Free Trade Agreement.

The pact also covers the movement of people, custom procedures, quality inspection and quarantine.

China's Ministry of Commerce said the FTA would take effect next year. Negotiations on the pact began in August 2006 and concluded in September after eight rounds.

China and Singapore also signed a memorandum of understanding on labor services.

Trade between the two countries reached 47.15 billion U.S. dollars last year. Singapore is China's eighth largest trade partner and seventh largest investor.

The signing was witnessed by Premier Wen Jiabao and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who arrived here on Wednesday.

Wen before the signing the pact signaled a leap forward in bilateral ties, which had always been friendly, cooperative and creative.

Lee agreed the FTA was "a testimony of the strength of our relationship and reflects our intention to broaden our exchanges and ties."

He said the ASEM meeting coincided with major developments in the global financial sector, and provided opportunities for exchanges "in the unstable environment."

Lee said Asian countries must work together to maintain the dynamism and stamina that characterized the past decades of Asian development.

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said the pact would help open up new trade and business opportunities and stabilize the global economy and promote the integration of East Asian economies.

Other countries and regions that had signed FTAs with China included New Zealand, Chile, Pakistan, ASEAN countries, Hong Kong and Macau.



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