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China pushes for construction of Northeast Asia free trade area

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Mongolia's Vice Premier M. Enkhbold delivers a speech during the 5th High-level Forum on Northeast Asia Economic and Trade Cooperation in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin Province, Sept. 6, 2011. (Xinhua/Wang Haofei)

CHANGCHUN, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- China is seeking to push forward the establishment of a free trade area among Northeast Asian countries in order to further boost the economic and trade exchanges in the region, a senior political advisor said Wednesday.

"All countries in Northeast Asia should make efforts in building a regional cooperative framework and exploring the construction of a free trade area under the backdrop of global and regional economic integration," said Bai Lichen, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Bai made the remarks at the ongoing 7th China Jilin Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo in Jilin's capital city Changchun.

The six-day trade fair that opened on Tuesday is expected to attract 50,000 exhibitors and visitors from Japan, Russia, the Republic of Korea, (ROK), the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Mongolia and other regions.

Japan, Russia's far east, the ROK, the DPRK, Mongolia and China's provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and northeastern part of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region make up Northeast Asia, which covers a combined area of nearly 9 million square km and is home to about 300 million people.

Combined gross domestic product (GDP) of Northeast Asia accounts for about one fifth of the world total and more than 70 percent of that of Asia.

In spite of its position in the world economy, economic cooperation and exchanges in Northeast Asia remain at a low level compared with other regions such as East Asia or Southeast Asia, Bai said.

"Northeast Asian countries and nations used to be isolated historically and lacked an efficient environment for mutual communication," Bai said.

"The foundation for economic and trade cooperation among these countries remains unstable," he added.

Bai proposed to push forward the exchanges among Northeast Asian countries by giving priority to the economic and trade cooperation while setting aside ideological differences.

"Countries with more economic correlation should lead in expanding bilateral and multilateral cooperation in order to push forward cooperation in the whole region," Bai said.

Jiang Zengwei, Vice Minister of Commerce, said at the expo that the world economy is recovering from crisis but with difficulties and uncertainties.

"Under these circumstances, it is more important to further promote the regional cooperation in Northeast Asia," Jiang said.

China has been making efforts in enhancing bilateral economic ties with countries in the region over the years.

In June, China and the DPRK jointly kicked off construction of the Rason Economic and Trade Zone.

Meanwhile, China is speeding up construction of highways and railways that link China with Russia, Mongolia and the DPRK.

Statistics from China Customs show that trade volume between China and Japan has jumped 19 percent to 162 billion U.S. dollars in the first half of the year, and China and the ROK have witnessed trade growth of 20.5 percent to 118 billion dollars during the same period.

Seo Gilbok, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Commerce of Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) delivers a speech during the 5th High-level Forum on Northeast Asia Economic and Trade Cooperation in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin Province, Sept. 6, 2011. (Xinhua/Wang Haofei)

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