BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei: ASEAN and China hope to conclude talks on an upgraded free trade agreement between both sides by 2015.
Newly-appointed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the point at the ASEAN-China summit in Brunei, and said the first round of talks will be held this year.
Premier Li said China will take more steps to open areas like trade in goods, trade in services and investment cooperation, and it wants to endeavour to raise two-way trade to US$1 trillion by 2020.
This will thus enable ASEAN countries to benefit even more from regional integration and China's economic growth.
However, ASEAN's leaders felt more can be done in the area of the grouping's cooperation with Japan.
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted during talks with the Japanese Prime Minister that ASEAN-Japan trade decreased by four per cent to US$262 billion in 2012.
This is even though the 10-member grouping's trade with the other Northeast Asian countries went up.
Mr Lee called on Japan to redouble its efforts to increase trade in goods and services and conclude the services and investment chapters of the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Mr Lee said ASEAN hopes to do so in time for the 40th anniversary commemorative summit with Japan.
Turning to ASEAN's ties with South Korea, Mr Lee said there is a need to increase the utilisation rate of the Free Trade Agreement between the grouping and South Korea.
He said currently it is less than 50 per cent and there is a need to encourage the small and medium enterprises to take advantage of it.
Mr Lee welcomed plans for the ASEAN-South Korea commemorative summit in Seoul next year.
In particular, Singapore supports the proposal for an ASEAN-South Korea Business Council which he believes will complement efforts to promote economic cooperation between both sides. - CNA/nd
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