Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Singapore, China to hold FTA talks

FEW OBSTACLES Regardless of the result of trade negotiations between China and ASEAN, Singapore will hash out a free trade deal in bilateral talks with Beijing

AFP , SINGAPORE

Singapore and China will begin negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) in November with few obstacles expected, the city-state's Deputy Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said in remarks published yesterday.

Lee told reporters accompanying him on a visit to Beijing the talks would proceed regardless of progress made in ASEAN's efforts to sign a regional deal with China.

"Whatever happens to the ASEAN-China FTA, we are going to launch the Singapore-China negotiations in November," the Straits Times quoted Lee as saying on Friday after meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).

Lee said Singapore and China expected the bilateral talks to proceed very smoothly.

DEMONSTRATION

"There are no difficult issues on both sides. We don't have agriculture and our attitude is we want a good FTA, both for our own benefit and as a demonstration for other countries in the region," Lee said.

The starting date for negotiations in November was chosen so they could be launched on the sidelines of the summit that month in Vientiane, Laos, of the leaders from ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea.

Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had announced last year that China and Singapore intended to work towards a free trade agreement, but said the negotiations would take a back seat to an ASEAN deal with China.

China and ASEAN are working towards establishing a free trade area by 2010, and Lee said negotiations on this deal were also proceeding smoothly.

The Straits Times quoted Lee as saying negotiations on an ASEAN-China FTA on goods would be completed "in the next few weeks, all going well."

Lee's visit to China sparked a series of announcements aside from the FTA deal that signal increasingly strong relations between the two countries.

BROADCASTING

Channel NewsAsia, a regional broadcaster with close links to the Singapore government, announced Friday it had won rights to broadcast into China's top hotels and foreign residential compounds.

In return, Beijing's English-language CCTV 9 will be allowed to broadcast unrestricted throughout Singapore via a cable channel.

The Singapore delegation in China also signed eight business memoranda of understandings to improve bilateral business links.

Trade between Singapore and China was worth S$36.9 billion (US$21.71 billion) last year.

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