According to a UPI report, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China inaugurated a free-trade area on New Year's day that slashes tariffs in an area with a population of 2 billion.
Under the agreement, China is cutting tariffs on imports from ASEAN nations from an average of 9.8 percent to about 0.1 percent, Xinhua, the official government news agency, reported. Chinese imports to the original ASEAN members -- Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand -- now taxed at an average of 12.8 percent, will carry .6 percent tariffs.
Trade between China and the Asean has soared in recent years, to $192.5 billion in 2008, from $59.6 billion in 2003. The new free-trade zone, which will remove tariffs on 90 percent of traded goods, is expected to increase that commerce still more.
The new ASEAN members, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, are expected to allow 90 percent of Chinese imports in without tariff by 2015, UPI reports.