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China-ASEAN trade to bloom on new target

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BEIJING, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed to "plant more flowers, no thorns" with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and it appears trade is set to bloom between the two sides.

China and ASEAN on Wednesday set a target to scale up two-way trade to one trillion U.S. dollars in 2020, more than double last year's trade volume.

In the coming eight years, China will import a total of 3 trillion U.S. dollars' worth of goods from ASEAN members and invest more than 100 billion U.S. dollars in ASEAN countries.

The data comes from Li's speech at the 16th China-ASEAN leaders' meeting held in the Bruneian capital of Bandar Seri Begawan and a joint statement issued on the same day.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the strategic partnership between China and ASEAN.

"We should plant more flowers, no thorns, and stay as good neighbors, good friends and good partners forever," Li said.

Xu Ningning, deputy secretary-general of the China-ASEAN Business Council, said to achieve the new trade target set by Premier Li, the two sides should further open up their markets.

Though more than 90 percent of the goods from both sides enjoy zero tariffs, there is still space to cut the ratio of "sensitive" goods, namely goods with tariffs, Xu told Xinhua on Thursday.

The two sides should further integrate supplementary industries to boost industrial upgrades, which have been a key focus for China and all ASEAN members, Xu said.

Over the past decade, trade between China and ASEAN has boomed.

From 2002 to 2012, China-ASEAN bilateral trade climbed 23.6 percent annually to its current 400 billion U.S. dollars. Mutual investment added up to over 100 billion dollars by the end 2012, according to official figures.

China now is the largest trade partner for ASEAN, and ASEAN is the third-largest trade partner for China.

Vowing to oppose trade protectionism, the two sides pledged to start talks at an early date over the upgrade of their free trade zone, called the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2010.

Service industries should be further boosted in the free trade zone, including finance, communication and logistics, Xu said.

The cooperation between China and ASEAN has many strengths, as the two sides share a geographical neighborhood with a long history of trade, and China boasts a huge market, Xu said.

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