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Overview : ASEAN-China free trade agreement


ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations commenced when H.E. QianQichen, the then Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, attended the opening session of the 24th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 1991 in Kuala Lumpur as a guest of the Malaysian Government in which he expressed China’s keen interest to cooperate with ASEAN for mutual benefit. Subsequently, China was accorded full Dialogue Partner status at the 29th AMM in July 1996 in Jakarta.

The relationship between ASEAN and China was elevated to a higher plane with the signing of the Joint Declaration of the Heads of State/Government on Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity at the 7th ASEAN-China Summit in October 2003 in Bali, Indonesia and the adoption of the ASEAN-China Plan Of Action (2005-2010) to implement the Joint Declaration at the 8th ASEAN-China Summit in November 2004 in Vientiane. In order to continue to deepen the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, a new Plan of Action for the period of 2011-2015 was adopted at the 13th ASEAN-China Summit in October 2010 in Ha Noi.

ASEAN and China commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership in 2013 with various commemorative activities conducted in ASEAN Member States and China. A Joint Statement of the 16th ASEAN-China Summit on Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership was adopted which expresses ASEAN and China’s collective commitment in further strengthening the ASEAN-China relations.

ASEAN and China had agreed to cooperate on eleven priority areas of cooperation, namely agriculture, information and communication technology, human resource development, Mekong Basin Development, investment, energy, transport, culture, public health, tourism and environment.

In order to further promoting mutual communication and coordination as well as for advancing the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership, China appointed its first resident Ambassador to ASEAN and established its Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta in September 2012.

The ASEAN-China Centre in Beijing was launched at the 14th ASEAN-China Summit in November 2011 in Bali. The Centre is a one-stop information centre to promote ASEAN-China cooperation in trade, investment, tourism, education, and culture. The virtual centre can be accessed at

Political and Security Cooperation

ASEAN and China continued to enhance their close and strategic partnership on political and security cooperation through regular dialogue and consultations which include Summits, ministerial meetings, senior officials and experts meetings, as well as through broader ASEAN-initiated regional architecture such as ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Plus Three (APT), the East Asia Summit (EAS) and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus).

China was the first dialogue partner of ASEAN to accede to the TAC in October 2003 in Bali. China’s accession to the TAC has contributed to the stature of the TAC as the code of conduct for inter-state relations in the region. China was also the first Nuclear Weapon State (NWS) which expressed its intention to accede to the Protocol to the SEANWFZ.

With the desire to promote peaceful, friendly and harmonious environment in the South China Sea, ASEAN and China signed the Declaration on the Conducts of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in November 2002 in Phnom Penh. After a series of discussions, ASEAN and China adopted the Guidelines to implement the DOC on 21 July 2011 in Bali.

The 16th ASEAN-China Summit on 9 October 2013 reaffirmed the importance of the maintenance of peace, stability, and maritime security in the region. The Leaders further stressed the importance of the DOC, the Joint Statement of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit on the 10th Anniversary of the DOC in 2012 and the adoption of the Guidelines for the Implementation of the DOC in 2011. In this regard, they reaffirmed their commitment to continue to fully and effectively implement the DOC, to build trust and confidence in order to enhance maritime security, and encourage the concerned parties to resolve their disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), without resorting to the threat or use of force, while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.

The 16th ASEAN-China Summit also welcomed the positive outcomes achieved in the first official consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) and the implementation of the DOC at the successful convening of the 6th Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) on the Implementation of the DOC, which was held on 15 September 2013 in Suzhou, China. Since then, the 10th ASEAN-China Joint Working Group (JWG) on DOC was held on 17-18 March 2014 in Singapore and the 7th ASEAN-China SOM on DOC was held on 21 April 2014 in Pattaya, Thailand, to move forward the momentum on the implementation of the DOC and consultations on the COC.

Following-up to the proposal of Premier Wen Jiabao at 14th ASEAN-China Summit in November 2011 in Bali, China has set up the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund, with RMB3 billion, to provide financial support to ASEAN-China cooperation in the areas of maritime scientific research, connectivity and navigation safety, particularly to implement agreed cooperative activities and projects within the DOC framework. China has circulated the Procedures for Project Application under the ASEAN-China Maritime Cooperation Fund and encouraged ASEAN Member States to submit project proposals seeking funding from the Fund.

On non-traditional security, ASEAN and China signed a Joint Declaration of ASEAN and China on Cooperation in the Field of Non-Traditional Security Issues in 2002 followed by the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the Field of Non-Traditional Security Issues in 2004. After the expiry of the MoU in 2009, a new MoU for the period of 2010-2014 was signed in 2009 in Siem Reap. A Plan of Action to Implement the MoU was later adopted at the 2nd ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting on combating Transnational Crime on 12 October 2011 in Bali, Indonesia. A series of training and workshop for ASEAN Member States has been provided by China in 2011-2012 to implement the Plan of Action. At the 15th ASEAN-China Summit, the ASEAN Leaders looked forward to enhance cooperation with China to address the trafficking of illegal drug and narcotics.

Economic Cooperation

Trade and economic ties between ASEAN and China have been growing rapidly over the past years, especially after the signing of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation in November 2002 to establish the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). Prior to the realisation of ACFTA on 1 January 2010, Trade in Goods Agreement, Trade in Service Agreement and the Investment Agreement under the Framework Agreement of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation were concluded and signed on 29 November 2004, 14 January 2007 and 15 August 2009, respectively. The ACFTA was realised on 1 January 2010 as almost 97 per cent of products classified by ASEAN-6 (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) and China in the Normal Track have been eliminated. The CLMV countries will fully implement the ACFTA on 1 January 2015.

In implementing the ACFTA, ASEAN and China established an ACFTA Joint Committee (ACFTA-JC) in 2011, which met for the first time in April 2012 in Nanning, China. The ACFTA-JC’s main tasks include overseeing, supervising, coordinating and reviewing the implementation of the Agreement. In order to provide the ACFTA-JC with a legal standing, the Third Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-China Framework Agreement of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation was signed at the sidelines of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit in November 2012 in Phnom Penh. The 3rd ACFTA-JC was held in March 2013 in Yiwu, China. More recently, the 4th ACFTA-JC was held on 5-7 November 2013, which deliberated on the need to upgrade the ACFTA, based on the mandate given by the Leaders.

The 16th ASEAN-China Summit on 9 October 2013 welcomed the initiative for an upgraded ACFTA by, among others, improving overall market access conditions and trade balance between both sides as well as expanding the scope and coverage of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and China and therefore, tasked officials to commence discussions with an aim to conclude the process as early as possible. In addition, the 16th ASEAN-China Summit agreed to actively push forward the negotiations of the RCEP for the greater economic integration of East Asia.

China continues to be ASEAN’s largest trading partner since 2009, while ASEAN continues to be China’s third largest trading partner since 2010. The Leaders at the 16th ASEAN-China Summit on 9 October 2013 also noted that, based on ASEAN statistics, the two-way trade volume has expanded at an annual growth rate of 21.6% from 2009. Trade between ASEAN and China increased by 13.6% from USD 280.4 billion in 2011 to USD 318.6 billion in 2012. The Leaders expressed confidence in their goal to achieve bilateral trade of USD 500 billion by 2015.

In 2009, China had established the USD 10 billion China-ASEAN Fund on Investment Cooperation and USD 15 billion credit, including USD 1.7 billion preferential loans, which was subsequently increased to USD 6.7 billion, to support more than 50 infrastructure development projects in ASEAN Member States. Pursuant to the adoption of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC), China proposed to provide an additional USD 10 billion credit including USD 4 billion preferential loans and USD 6 billion commercial loans to support the implementation of the MPAC. The USD 6 billion commercial loan is administered by six Chinese banks, namely China Development Bank, China EXIM Bank, Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), China Construction Bank, and China CITIC Bank and used mainly for infrastructure cooperation, energy, and natural resources.

The ASEAN-China EXPO (CAEXPO), an event which showcases products from ASEAN and China, has been organised and hosted by China on an annual basis in Nanning, China since 2004. At the margin of the CAEXPO, an ASEAN-China Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) was established to bring government and the private sector together to exchange views on matters affecting the economy and businesses of ASEAN Member States and China. The 9th CAEXPO was held on 21-25 September 2012 in Nanning, China with the theme of Science and Technology. The 10th CAEXPO was convened on 3-6 September 2013 in Nanning, China with the theme Regional Cooperation and Development: New Opportunities, New Impetus, New Stages.

As a follow-up to the decision of the Leaders at the 14th ASEAN-China Summit, the ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC) and the Chinese Working Committee on Connectivity convened their first meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat on 7 November 2012. At the 15th ASEAN-China Summit on 19 November 2012, the Leaders reaffirmed that ASEAN Connectivity is considered as priority and fundamental in the development of an enhanced connectivity between ASEAN and the wider region, including ASEAN with China and tasked the ACCC and the Chinese Working Committee on Connectivity to identify key areas for connectivity cooperation and work out a list of prioritised projects, and coordinate technical and financial resource mobilisation from both ASEAN and China to better support financing for connectivity cooperation projects.

The 16th ASEAN-China Summit on 9 October 2013 agreed to accelerate regional infrastructure connectivity efforts as well as welcomed China’s initiative to set up an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to provide financial support to regional infrastructure projects, with priority on ASEAN connectivity. China is working on the details to set up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The focus of ASEAN-China cooperation in agriculture remains on enhancing cooperation in human resource development through a series of training courses on agricultural technologies to help train agricultural technicians and officials of ASEAN Member States. Upon the expiry of the MOU between the ASEAN Secretariat and the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China on Agricultural Cooperation (2007-2011), a new MOU is currently being prepared by both ASEAN and China.

In the area of information and communication technology (ICT), ASEAN and China have concluded the implementation of the Action Plan to Implement the Beijing Declaration on ASEAN-China ICT Cooperative Partnership for Common Development (2007-2012), which was signed in 2007. The Plan of Action has provided good direction and strong commitment for wide ranging cooperation in ICT between ASEAN and China. The new Action Plan for Deepening the ASEAN-China Partnership for Common Development in the ICT Field for the period of 2012-2016 was recently adopted at the 7th Meeting of the Ministers responsible for Telecommunications and Information Technology of the ASEAN Member States and China (TELMIN+China) on 16 November 2012 in Mactan, Cebu, the Philippines. ASEAN and China is about to complete the signing of the MOU on Cooperation in ICT.

ASEAN-China cooperation in transport received a major boost with the signing of the MOU on Transport Cooperation in November 2004 in Vientiane. Through this MOU, both sides are working together in the following areas for medium and long-term cooperation: i) transport infrastructure construction; ii) transport facilitation; iii) maritime safety and security; iv) air transport; v) human resources development; and vi) information exchange. Subsequently, an Implementation Work Programme (IWP) for the Strategic Plan for ASEAN-China Transport Cooperation Plan was developed. This IWP would enhance international and cross-border transportation and facilitation in key ASEAN-China Transport Corridors, namely: i) China-Myanmar-Andaman Sea, ii) China-Lao PDR/Myanmar-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore, iii) China-Viet Nam-Laos- Cambodia, iv) Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand-Myanmar, and v) Viet Nam-China-Myanmar-Bengal-India.

In addition to the on-going ASEAN-China transport cooperation activities, two agreements on maritime and air transport were signed. They were:  i) ASEAN-China Maritime Transport Agreement (AC-MTA) signed on 2 November 2007 and ii) ASEAN-China Air Transport Agreement (AC-ATA) on 12 November 2010.

On tourism, China has a significant potential to become a major source of tourists for ASEAN.  According to ASEAN Statistics in 2012, ASEAN received around 8.77 million tourists from China, a growth of 19.8% compared with 7.32 million in 2011. At the same time, ASEAN Member States also played an important role as the source market for China. Figures recorded more than 5.6 million tourist arrivals from ASEAN to China in 2011. The numbers increased in 2012 to 5.9 million.

On cooperation in quality inspection, two MOUs on Strengthening Sanitary and Phytosanitary Cooperation (SPS) and Strengthening Cooperation in the Field of Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment (TBT) between ASEAN and China were signed on 20 November 2007 and 24 October 2009, respectively. In order to implement the MOUs, ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting on Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine on SPS and TBT was set-up and held alternately every year. The latest Meeting on quality inspection was the 3rd ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting on Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine on SPS cooperation, which was held on 20 September 2012 in Nanning, China. The Meeting noted the establishment of an ASEAN-China SPS Cooperation portal website ( to facilitate SPS information exchange and endorsed the SPS Cooperation Plan of Action for 2013-2014.

On Intellectual Property (IP) cooperation, the 3rd ASEAN-China Heads of IP Offices Meeting was held on 10 July 2012. The Meeting discussed the proposed work programme for Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Chinese Medicines. Subsequently, an ASEAN-China IP Workshop on Traditional Knowledge was convened on 9-13 September 2012 in Beijing. The Workshop discussed and exchanged views on the related solutions to the identified challenges of protecting traditional knowledge and genetic resources, as well as agreed to increase communication on international IP issues between ASEAN and China and have a strengthened mutual understanding on IP issues.

Socio-Cultural Cooperation

On socio-cultural cooperation, a number of activities have been carried out in the areas of public health, science and technology, education, culture, labour and social security, local government and people-to-people exchanges, environment, media, youth, social development, and poverty reduction.

In the area of public health, the Ministers on Health of ASEAN and China signed an MOU on Health Cooperation at the 4th ASEAN-China Health Ministers Meeting on 6 July 2012 in Phuket, Thailand. At the Meeting, the Ministers tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD) to develop a work plan to concretely implement the signed MOU. China, at the 19th ASEAN-China Senior Officials Consultations on 2 April 2013, stated that it would develop the said work / action plan and would forward it to ASEAN for further consideration. The 3rd Meeting of the ASEAN-China SOMHD was conducted in August 2013 in Singapore. Furthermore, the 16th ASEAN-China Summit on 9 October 2013 noted the progress made in ASEAN-China  collaboration on health in the areas of communicable diseases, emerging infectious diseases, and traditional and complementary alternative medicine. The Leaders looked forward to further strengthening the joint collaboration in health development as agreed in the signed ASEAN-China MOU on Health Cooperation.

ASEAN and China designated 2012 as the ASEAN-China Year of Cooperation in Science and Technology. A series of activities were implemented to mark the year. In addition, an ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation was held on 22 September 2012 at the sidelines of the 9th CAEXPO to officially launch the ASEAN-China Science and Technology Partnership (STEP) Programme. In implementing the STEP Programme, China proposed to set-up 10 joint laboratories in ASEAN Member States with a funding support of USD 1 million to each laboratory for funding hardware, joint research and development, and personnel training. In addition, China also proposed to establish technology transfer centres in ASEAN Member States to help improve development capabilities with a funding support of USD 2.5 million. Currently, ASEAN and China are finalising the MOU on ASEAN-China Cooperation on Science and Technology.  The draft MOU has been agreed by the ASEAN Member States and China and is expected to be signed in the latter half of 2014. Furthermore, the 16th ASEAN-China Summit on 9 October 2013 noted with satisfaction that under STEP, four major cooperation programmes including 10 ASEAN-China joint laboratories, ASEAN-China Remote Sensing Satellite Data Sharing and Service Platform, ASEAN-China Technology Transfer Center, and Talented Young Scientist Visiting China have yielded concrete progress.

ASEAN-China cooperation on education made good progress with the convening of the Fifth China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week in August 2012 in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China. The Exchange Week took on the theme of innovation and pragmatic cooperation with efforts in enhancing the understanding and friendship between ASEAN and China, and in strengthening mutual exchange and cooperation. Since 2010, ASEAN and China has made efforts to "Double 100,000 Goal of Student Mobility" that envisaged the number of exchange students from ASEAN Member States to China to reach 100,000 by 2020 and vice versa.

At the 15th ASEAN-China Summit, the ASEAN Leaders noted with appreciation the establishment of ten ASEAN-China Education and Training Centres in six provinces of China, which would further contribute to the ASEAN Community building efforts and promote the solidarity, development, and cooperation in the East Asia region as well as to assist ASEAN’s efforts to promote socio-economic and human resources development.

ASEAN and China attach importance to strengthening youth exchanges and cooperation. From 25 to 31 March 2012, Thailand hosted the ASEAN-China Youth Caring and Sharing Programme in Bangkok, Thailand and Kunming, China. The Programme provided the opportunity for young people from both sides to meet, familiarise, understand, build network, and create a sense of belonging with one another. The ASEAN-China Youth Dance Exhibition was held on 16 August 2012 in Ha Noi at the sidelines of the 7th Conference on ASEAN-China People-to-People Friendship Organisations.

On cultural cooperation, the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN-China Ministers on Culture and Arts (AMCA + China) was held on 24 May 2012 in Singapore. The Ministers agreed on the proposed priority areas and modalities articulated in the Concept Paper on ASEAN-China Cooperation in Culture and Arts, which was based on the 2005 ASEAN-China Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Cooperation and the decision of the 2011 ASEAN-China Culture Ministers Meeting in Chongqing, China. Other activities organised in this field included the Seminar on Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage in ASEAN and China held on 29 August 2012 and the ASEAN-China Cultural Forum under the theme “Asian libraries: Resource Sharing, Cooperation and Development” held on 11 September 2012. Furthermore, the 16th ASEAN-China Summit on 9 October 2013 designated the year 2014 as the ASEAN-China Cultural Exchange Year. The Leaders looked forward to hold the China-ASEAN Tourism Forum in China and the ongoing efforts to increase further two-way tourists visits between ASEAN and China. ASEAN and China are discussing activities throughout 2014 as part of the (draft) Plan of Action on China-ASEAN Cultural Cooperation (2014-2016).

ASEAN-China cooperation on environment is growing stronger. The China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Centre (CAEC) was officially inaugurated in May 2011 in Beijing. Subsequently, an ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Action Plan was adopted by ASEAN and China in 2011. The Action Plan includes: i) establishing ASEAN-China environmental cooperation mechanism, including ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting and ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Forum; ii) Promote the cooperation on environmental industry; iii) implement the ASEAN-China Green Envoys Programme

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