Worker at a textile factory in Shandong, China. (Source: VNA)

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – The Free Trade Area (FTA) between ASEAN and China was officially upgraded on November 22, giving fresh impetus to regional economic cooperation.

The two sides inked a deal for upgraded FTA at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in the presence of visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and leaders of the ten ASEAN member states.

The upgraded deal was concluded after only four rounds of negotiations that started in August 2014, signaling the common aspiration and practical needs of both sides to expand ties in trade and economy.

The upgrade covers a wide range of areas, from goods, services to investment, and economic and technological collaboration, believed to provide a push for economic development of both ASEAN and China.

The move fosters not only a closer ASEAN-China community but also a smooth way for the achievement of 1 trillion USD in bilateral trade by 2020. It helps facilitate the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area.

In their talks, ASEAN and China agreed on the significance of facilitated trade and investment, further opening of the service market and improved economic and technological cooperation, Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng told reporters after the signing ceremony.

The ASEAN-China FTA took effect in 2010, allowing China to become ASEAN’s biggest trade partner and the bloc to become the third largest of the world’s second largest economy.

Since then, the ASEAN-China economic and trade relations have enjoyed healthy and stable development. The two-way trade climbed nine-fold from 54.8 billion USD in 2002 to 480.4 billion USD in 2014.-VNA