Six Asian Economies Announce Tariff Reductions and Broader Cooperation

Trade ministers of six Asian countries – including China, India and the Republic of Korea, three of the region’s largest economies – today announced further tariff reductions at the conclusion of the third Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) ministerial council in Seoul

During the meeting, the accession process for Mongolia to become an APTA member was also formally initiated. Besides China, India and the Republic of Korea, the other current members of APTA are Bangladesh, Lao PDR and Sri Lanka.

APTA is the only regional trade agreement which links East, Southeast and South Asia. It was negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

“The total trade volume of APTA members skyrocketed from a mere 140 million Dollars in 1976 to 3.1 trillion Dollars in 2008” underlined Mr. Hur Kyung-Wook, First Vice Minister of Strategy and Finance of the Government of the Republic of Korea. “The conclusion of the Fourth Round negotiations will help evolve APTA as a truly significant trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region” he added.

“I am delighted that APTA members have made significant progress in deepening their agreement and are committed to continuing the process of liberalization” said Mr. Shigeru Mochida, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

The six APTA members furthermore committed to expanding their cooperation into investment and trade facilitation by signing formal framework agreements in those two areas. A framework agreement on trade in services was also finalized and will be signed in early 2010.

In their declaration, the ministers called for further tariff liberalization and negotiations into additional areas of cooperation. They also reaffirmed their commitment to expanding membership into “a truly pan-Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement.”

The Seoul meeting was hosted by the First Vice Minister of Strategy and Finance of the Republic of Korea, Hur Kyung-Wook, and was attended by ministers or vice ministers from the six APTA members, as well as by ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Shigeru Mochida.

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