Asean-China FTA cuts tariffs on 400 more items

Asean-China FTA cuts tariffs on 400 more items

Import tariffs on around 400 items traded between Asean and China will be cut to 0-5%, starting from Jan 1, 2018, as part of the continuing stages of the Asean-China free trade agreement (FTA). The pact is expected to help double trade value between the two sides to US$1 trillion (32.7 trillion baht) by 2020.

Deputy Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara said once the 400 items on the sensitive list are removed, the final stage of cutting tariffs for very sensitive items can begin.

Most of the goods on the sensitive list are agriculture products and major commodities that have been protected for a long time with high import tariffs to help local farmers from a flood of imports through the FTA.

"However, the upcoming tariff cut has been phased in gradually, allowing the two sides time to adjust. This new stage of the FTA will mean a sharp rise in trading value between Asean and China," she said.

Asean and China started negotiations on an FTA in the early 2000s, reaching an agreement in 2004.

Import tariffs for around 90% of total goods, or 8,600 items, have already been slashed to 0-5%, she said.

Most of the goods that will see the tariff cut to 0-5% starting from next year comprise wheat, fruit juice, tyres, polyester, toys, chillers and electrical equipment, said Ms Chutima.

The FTA pushed trade value between the two sides from $65.8 billion in 2006 to $450 billion in 2016. Trade value is expected to rise to $1 trillion by 2020, she said.

Ms Chutima also mentioned the Asean-Hong Kong FTA, which is due to begin in 2019.

She said the Asean-Hong Kong FTA could help cut import tariffs to 47%, below the 53% Hong Kong uses to protect its local producers.

"With the Asean-Hong Kong FTA, it would prevent Hong Kong from raising import tariffs further from 47% and includes an agreement with the World Trade Organization that it should help boost trade between the two sides in the near future," said Ms Chutima.

She said the two FTAs should increase investment and business activities among small and medium-sized enterprises for both sides of the pacts, especially via schemes such as China's One Belt One Road and Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor.

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